Ahead of International Women's Day 2024, CAFE spoke with women who are passionate about access and inclusion for disabled people.

Whether disabled fans themselves, or working to remove barriers affecting disabled people in sport, we sought a wide range of experiences and opinions to shine a spotlight on the topic.

Daniela Wurbs is the Managing Director of KickIn! - a German organisation working with stakeholders nationally to promote diversity and inclusion, and encouraging access improvements at stadiums across the country. Prior to her role with KickIn!, Daniela was the first ever CEO of Football Supporters Europe.

What made you want to become involved with football?

I love the game and I love supporting the team and the club that I am a member of. I love the club life and democratic momentum and social responsibility there. I have seen so often, what people can achieve if they come together to provide support for people in need or social causes.

Did you ever face any barriers as a woman wanting to become involved with football?

When I started to work in football, I realised that I was very often the only female in the room during meetings. Sometimes I was even the only female speaker at events of 350 people. One of the first questions with new work contacts, particularly at ministries and at football associations, repeatedly was whether I actually had any interest in football. My male counterparts never encountered the same situations. So, I was very often the “only one”, and in a leadership position at that. Hence, everything I did was under greater surveillance and I felt I was tested much more often and had to be better prepared. Over the years, I also encountered situations with open sexism and sexual harrassment – and I felt there was no contact point I could have turned towards for help and support.

Are women as valued as men within football? Do you feel as valued as your male counterparts?

I think the appreciation is definitely growing. Both for women's football and for those working in the football industry. But as long as this growing support is not mirrored in more women in decision-making positions, all the kind words and marketing activities could remain window-dressing activities – and then it will remain hard to convince more women to work in football.

Female ambassadors and representation in the game really do make a difference, especially for young women. I encountered many situations during my career where women told me that when they saw me speaking on stage, or doing what I do as a leader, they started to believe that they could possibly achieve the same one day. 

Is there a particular policy, facility or other measure in place that helps you to feel welcomed within football?

I think representation in leadership positions really does make a difference. But also structural measures that show true commitment of the organisation regarding the support for gender diversity, such as a policy regarding sexual harrassment, systematic training for male employees regarding sexism at work, a workplace supporting part-time and shared leadership models and services facilitating childcare and a greater work-life-balance.

How do you feel the barriers faced by non-disabled women differ from those faced by disabled women?

I think that football is a very much performance-driven business. Disabled people in general, at least in Germany, still tend to be viewed in a predominantly biased way as weak and more like an object of social aid than as potential colleagues on equal footing like everyone else. Especially people with visible disabilities face many such prejudices. And since women and disabled people are still marginalised within football, disabled women obviously do encounter combined forms of exclusion and prejudice that these two groups face.

What can be done to remove the barriers that prevent disabled women from football?

I think, structures within football need to change and need to become more accessible overall. But three things that could be done to start with it quite easily are:

  • Implementing holistic training and awareness raising on diversity, inclusion and intersectionality with fans and people working at clubs or football governing bodies (and how this affects us all)
  • Installing and communicating transparent and accessible commitments and procedures against sexism and other forms of discrimination (and support for affected female fans and employees)
  • Promoting positive role models among women and disabled people within the club


What advice would you give to a disabled woman who feels that she can’t become involved in football?

I would advise her to seek contact with disabled people and non-disabled people who you trust, and or role models who are already involved. She could also seek contact with advocacy groups of women and disabled people in football, such as the national association of disabled supporters BBAG in Germany, or the national network of women in football called F_in.  

Furthermore, in Germany, more and more clubs and associations do have specialist Supporter Liaison Officers (SLOs) for diversity and inclusion and sustainability managers who also seek to develop social inclusion. They might be good contact points as well. Definitely she should not give up – there are lots of potential allies just waiting for her to join! 

Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

When I started going to watch live football, it was very noticeable that disabled women did not go to matches very often

Published 8/3/2024