New Zealand Football have published the executive summary of the independent review of the Football Ferns campaign during the last FIFA Women’s World Cup cycle.
The national body said the review was carried out by independent reviewers and included interviews and feedback from 46 players and staff who were part of the Ferns’ World Cup campaign.
New Zealand Football GM High Performance Keir Hansen said:
“It is vital for the development of a team to continually review and learn from what they have done.
“The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 was a gamechanger for football in Aotearoa New Zealand, but it is important that we learn all of the lessons from the past cycle to continue growing as a team ahead of the next FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2027.
“With high performance sport built on continually looking to improve every possible aspect of performance, I’m under no doubt that there are valuable lessons from this work we will be taking into planning for the next campaign.”
In full: The executive summary
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (FWWC) marked the end of a quadrennial cycle for the Football Ferns (FF) which included the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (delayed until 2021).
The FF finished at the bottom of an extremely competitive group in Tokyo which contained three of the four semifinalists. In the previous cycle, the FF had been through a particularly turbulent period which culminated in the Muir Review in 2018.
It is worth noting the impact of COVID-19 on the FF this cycle. COVID global travel restrictions and NZ’s border restrictions directly impacted the FF international calendar throughout this campaign, in particular from early 2020 to the middle of 2022.
The FF were the only international team to play zero international games in the 12 months leading into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The planned departure of head coach Tom Sermanni took place following the Tokyo Olympics (July 2021), with Jitka Klimková taking over the role in September 2021.
In 2020 NZF launched a new strategy for the organisation through to 2026.
One of the four strategic priorities was inspiring performances on the international stage with an outcome being achievements creating excitement, pride and connection with New Zealanders and a specific goal to have the All Whites and Football Ferns win at World Cups.
In addition to the NZF strategic goals, the FF added a further goal for the FWWC which was to progress out of pool play.
In front of 40,000 fans at Eden Park, the FF made history by beating Norway in their first game of pool play. Their performances against the Philippines and Switzerland were not enough to enable them to progress into the round of 16.
Certainly, they did inspire the nation and it is clear there is huge opportunity in the women’s game for NZF to capitalise on following the FWWC. It will be important for NZF to continue to connect and collaborate with the player group to ensure they are involved in and understand the legacy opportunities for them personally, as well as for women’s football in NZ.
The purpose of this review is to:
- Understand the Football Ferns progress, success and challenges and the wider environment over the 2019-2023 FWWC campaign considered against the stated strategic goals.
- Capture learning from the 2023 FWWC campaign that will inform planning and preparation and make recommendations for the 2027 campaign.
With the Paris Olympics less than 12 months after the FWWC, NZF will need to capture learnings to enable the FF to transition quickly out of the FWWC cycle. Therefore, this debrief will provide recommendations that will inform campaign planning, resourcing and staffing for the 2027 World Cup cycle, with considerations made for the 2024 Olympics.
Summary of recommendations
1. NZF conduct a review of the High-Performance organisational structure relating to the FF and consider the following:
- Ensure that adequate support is in place for the HC (head coach) and coaching group. Key areas of focus should be to check and challenge the campaign plan, provide technical and tactical advice, mentoring and assist in framing up a FF ‘style of play’.
- A leadership role within the FF to lead support staff and support the coaching group. There is potential to ‘elevate’ an existing role into this one or create a new role.
- Review the requirements of the critical role of Lead Sports Scientist, ensuring adequate support is put in place to develop, support, and retain this person.
2. The NZF GM HP needs to ensure all coaches and staff have a personal development plan, sufficient for their needs, that is regularly referred to, updated, and resourced appropriately and considered in the scope of roles.
3. Noting progress since 2018 in NZF recruitment and induction processes, NZF need to ensure the FF effectively induct new staff and players into the FF environment (processes, culture, rituals).
4. NZF to recruit a respectable and capable person to collaborate, educate and facilitate the development and implementation of a well-functioning Leadership Group. This piece of work needs to link closely with recommendation seven regarding performance culture.
5. There is an excellent opportunity for NZF and NZPFA to collaborate to continue to develop and implement a long-term Mental Health and Wellbeing plan for the female football pathway.
6. Noting progress in this space, NZF and NZPFA need to continue to work to build relationships, trust and role clarity between the staff members. There also needs to be work done to ensure the player group understand the role of the NZPFA and what they can offer.
7. Develop a plan to ensure everyone within the FF understands what a performance culture looks like and how this will be achieved. NZF need to create time and space and invest in the right person to be in the environment to build on the work done with the player group around values and behaviours.
8. The FF coaching group need further consideration of how they want to communicate and engage with players, staff, and media. This will require a collaborative approach with players, ensuring the plan is clearly articulated to them, and behaviour echoes what was agreed.
9. NZF to develop a 2027 campaign plan, with specific plans for Paris 2024, in collaboration with coaches/players/support staff/external and ensure that risk management is integrated into this process. Other key areas to consider will be the connection with overseas players, planning for internationals, processes to achieve player input and recognition of time of players to do this.
10. NZF to review the player IPP process and case management for players and determine a staff member who takes a lead on this.
11. NZF will continue to develop an organisation-wide data plan to capture how player information is collected, stored, shared, and used effectively to impact performance.
12. NZF are currently developing the NZFHP and talent development plan 2024-2030. This must be seen as an opportunity to strategically influence the HP development pathway and work closely with key stakeholders in order to build sustainable success on the World stage.