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Nikita Parris has had enough of waiting for change – when it comes to paving the way for the next generation of players, it’s now or never for women’s football, writes Ella Jerman.
The Lionesses star is urging more sponsors to back the sport and capitalise on the popularity of women’s football, which is at an all-time high after this year’s World Cup.
Visa signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to sponsor all of their women’s competitions last December and as the women’s game gains more global attention, other brands have quickly followed suit.
Barclays have also signed a three-year deal with the FA Women’s Super League and Lucozade became the official sports drinks and hydration partner of the England women’s team.
Visa may be the biggest global sponsor of women’s football but their ambition goes beyond money as they strive to help their athletes achieve their wider personal goals too.
PSG and Denmark’s Nadia Nadim – an Afghan refugee now represented by Team Visa – was able to work in a refugee camp this summer thanks to the sponsor’s support and while Parris has not undertaken a similar project yet, she has been inspired by its success.
“Women have to feel empowered. They have to feel like they belong somewhere. Visa shows them that they matter,” said Parris, speaking at the Team Visa summit in London.
“Visa is innovative. It helps change the landscape of not just sport, but people’s lives in many areas that might not have even heard of and in many countries that people might not have even heard of.
“That definitely resonates with me. Many people outside of Toxteth – where I come from – would call it deprived but for me it was home. When I go back, I want to make sure that the young girls see an opportunity and a light.
“It’s important that you have brands like Visa to be able to put a spotlight [on the game] and show that it’s our time. That time is now. It’s not in five years, six years, it’s right now. Let’s make change, now.”
Parris is one of the 15 players who make up Team Visa’s star-studded squad, an idea previously used by the company with Olympians but reinvented to become the first of its kind in women’s football.
Visa’s European Head of Marketing Adrian Farina said: “This is not a short-term thing. This is not something just to tick a box and to look good.
“We’ve been involved in sports in many years and we’re not just looking for another property to sponsor, but we realised there was something missing.
“We want to drive positive change by treating women’s football how it's meant to be.”