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The Heart of the Game: Managing Volunteers at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Perth/Boorloo

National Volunteer Week 2024 is a celebration of the diverse passions and talents everyone brings to volunteering, recognising that there is “Something for Everyone’. At the grassroots level, volunteers are the lifeblood of local clubs and community programs, but the impact of volunteering can be felt all the way up to Major Sporting Events.

During National Volunteer Week, it’s important to recognize the volunteers whose dedication and passion, drive the success of such large-scale events. These volunteers play crucial roles, from logistical support to fan engagement. Their contributions enhance the experience for players and spectators alike, creating a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.

SportWest was lucky enough to hear from Workforce & Volunteer Manager Perth/Boorloo AUS of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Abid Imam, to hear how volunteering impacted this Major Sporting Event.

In the role of Workforce & Volunteer Manager, Abid was responsible for recruiting, training, deploying, and supporting 400 volunteers for 44 days of operations across 8 venues and 5 match days in Perth/Boorloo.

“In the early stages, I also designed the volunteer centres in each of the six stadiums in Australia and planned the uniform distribution for Australia’s 3,500 FIFA Women’s World Cup Volunteers. Each volunteer received about 13 clothing items from Adidas, so it was a big logistical effort.” Abid said.

The task of recruiting and retaining volunteers for such a high-profile event is no small feat. In this instance, community engagement played a crucial role. “Earlier in the project, we conducted community engagement at local universities, volunteer networks, and within the vibrant local football community. Perth/Boorloo showed up big time, with far more applications than roles available, thanks to a strong culture of volunteerism in local football and community sport. People were motivated to get involved in one of the biggest sporting events our city and state has ever hosted, eager to showcase our passion for women’s football.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood of community sports, particularly in today’s social climate. “From grassroots to the world’s biggest stage, volunteers are the heart and soul of making sport happen and providing a platform for participants to shine. Their selflessness, dedication, and willingness to help are truly inspiring. In this current climate, where people’s time is precious, the contribution of volunteers ensures that sports remain a vital source of connection accessible to those who need it most.”

Maintaining positive and effective relationships with the volunteer base was crucial. The philosophy adopted by the Volunteer Management team was centered on prioritizing the volunteer experience, leading with kindness, and being flexible and empathetic. “It’s got to be fun and enjoyable. As leaders, we aimed to create a culture of smiles. Gratitude was the attitude. Working to support volunteers now at football clubs across WA with Football West, a lot of relationships stem from actively listening, and the rest flows from there.”

One of the most heartwarming aspects of the role was witnessing the diverse and dedicated volunteer team. “It was amazing to see a truly diverse volunteer team united by a willingness to help.”

“For a tournament which had inclusivity at its core, I have strong memories of an amazing volunteer who deaf (as she identified herself) and absolutely loves her football. She was able to do all her shifts and training with an AUSLAN interpreter by her side. Removing barriers made it possible for her to participate and connect with this magical tournament. I’ll forever be inspired by all the volunteers I met at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and how beautiful humanity can be when we all contribute selflessly as a team towards a common purpose”.

The impact of the FIFA Women’s World Cup volunteers has extended beyond the event itself. “It has been awesome seeing many volunteers now back at their local football clubs, playing, coaching, or administering the game. The common talking point is the massive increase in women and girls participating in the game since the Matildas effect. These volunteers have contributed immensely to what we are seeing today.”

The story of the volunteers at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Perth/Boorloo is a testament to the power of community, the spirit of volunteerism, and the lasting impact of major sporting events. Their dedication and passion have not only made the event a success but have also strengthened the local football community for years to come.

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