Visitors from all corners of the globe witnessed insightful debate, in-depth discussion and interactive dialogue during a captivating first day of the International Conference of Sports for Women (ICSW) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on Monday.
The conference, which saw full-house attendance on its first day, featured a schedule packed with diverse opinion, widespread expertise and experience, and an unparalleled line-up of sporting icons and industry leaders. Day one was kicked-off by H.E. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Tolerance, who welcomed the assembled delegates from around the world to the UAE capital, and explained the crucial role that sports is playing across the nation in addressing key societal challenges.
His Excellency was one of three UAE Ministers of State to address the assembled delegates, alongside the UAE Minister for Youth, H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui, who gave the opening Conference speech, and H.E. Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.
H.E Noura Al Kaabi was joined for the first panel of the day by Maria Teixidor Jufresa, Board of Directors Vice-Secretary, FC Barcelona, and Michelle Kwan, two-time Olympic medalist, five-time World and nine-time U.S. figure skating champion, as the unique triumvirate debated the subject of ‘Empowering Women: Sports and Leadership’.
“Sport is a unifier - it is why we are united here and I’m honored to be sitting alongside Maria and Michelle,” she said.
Together with the opening speeches, the day one Conference schedule featured three panel discussions, three interactive workshops, and a special session entitled ‘The Making of Future Champions’ sponsored by the leading regional specialist health insurer, Daman.
The day’s second panel was organized under the topic of ‘Behavioral Change: Sports as the Norm’ and featured His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), Kate Bosomworth, Board Member, Sport England and lead for the groundbreaking ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, May El-Khalil, Founder of the Beirut Marathon Association, and Tala Al-Ramahi, from the Office of Strategic Affairs for the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.
The afternoon saw the third of the day’s panel sessions take place with a line-up of speakers of unquestionable experience and industry caché. Kate Johnson, Vice President and Head of Global Sponsorship Marketing at Visa, was joined in a four person panel by Gavin Makel, Head of Women's Football at Manchester City Football Club, Alan Pascoe MBE, the former President of international sports and entertainment agency CSM, and Hala Al Gergawi, the Executive Managing Editor of Zahrat Al Khaleej, as they discussed the critical issues surrounding ‘Sponsorship and Media: Increasing Value in Women’s Sports’.
Explaining the strategy behind Visa’s sponsorship of international athletes, Kate Johnson said:
“At Visa above all we’re looking for inspiring stories. Female athletes and women’s sports can often offer greater value than others largely through the storytelling. We are sponsoring close to 50 athletes in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, a line-up which includes more women than men. My message to athletes is always the same - you have to stay true to you. It starts with focusing on your passions. I tell athletes to stay true to their own platforms - make sure brands understand what your passions are.”
Meanwhile, sports marketing pioneer Alan Pascoe was excited by the opportunity that women’s sports presents over the coming years:
“There’s huge opportunity, but to really accelerate it you need to focus on engagement, either through watching and following sport or by bringing them in as participants, no matter at what level.”
ICSW is one of the leading regional networking events for the global sports industry, and this year’s Conference has attracted a wide variety of public and private sector exhibitors and media partners to enthrall and engage visitors away from the panels and workshops. The Sports Exhibition Area, positioned next to the Main Auditorium, includes a diverse selection of 16 sports industry exhibitors, together with a FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2019 Mobile Roadshow, an exhibition of the shortlisted photographs for the ICSW Sports Photography Competition in association with Getty Images, and an Abu Dhabi Media television studio broadcasting live for the entirety of the two-day event.
Day One of ICSW concluded with a series of interactive workshops hosted by a selection of this year’s conference guests.
Rym Abdullah Alfalasy, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood and Board Member of the Gender Balance Council of Abu Dhabi was joined by Emma Lax, Founder and Managing Director of sports marketing agency We Are Disrupt, for a workshop entitled ‘Women and Leadership: Networking for Change-markers’. Reem Maziq from Disney Healthy Living EMEA led a session on ‘Disney’s Healthy Living Commitment: Inspiring Healthy Living Through Storytelling and Characters’. Tom Reed, ActiveLife Marketing Executive from Daman, took delegates through a workshop on ‘The Making of Future Champions’. And finally Houriya Taheri, Executive Member of the Women's Football Committee and UAE's National Women's Football Team Head Coach, Anoud Al-Saadi, UAE national fencer, and Emirati crossfit athlete, Shaikha Al Qassemi, joined forces for a workshop entitled ‘UAE Success Stories: The Secrets to Establishing a Successful Sports Business’.
Demand for registrations has been high, attracting a rich variety of delegates from across the GCC and beyond. The conference, which aims to advance the global conversation on women’s sports by providing thought-leadership from some of the most experienced industry figures and sporting icons globally, continues throughout Tuesday 7th November with a Keynote Speech from Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Media Company, three more panel discussions, an inspirational talk from Special Olympics icon Loretta Claiborne, and four interactive workshops.