Zena Sport: Helping female goalkeepers stay protected

Donna Johnson started Zena Sport with the aim of protecting women athletes in high-impact sports. With the help of her husband, former AFL footballer and Western Bulldogs captain Brad Johnson, Zena Sport is changing the way female athletes look at injury prevention.

Their Female Impact protection garment, known as the Zena Z1 performance vest, offers support and impact protection, while also giving compression for enhanced post-game recovery.

The impact vest isn’t visible under a jersey or shirt while being lightweight and breathable without restricting a player’s movement, weighing only 160 grams.

Donna came up with the idea after after she watched a local women’s AFL game, with plans to continue expanding the product line after their initial success.

“My wife Donna was at a local game with her best friend who had a couple of daughters playing, and one of them came off that game with a big knock to the breast,” Brad said.

“We thought is there anything to help these girls during that development phase of life? That’s how the conversation started with us, and we continued to explore it.”

After discovering there wasn’t a large body of research in the area of injuries specific to women’s athletes, Zena Sport conducted their own.

“We worked with Deakin University in that process, and there were a lot of things to tick off,” Brad Johnson said.

“We went through their Centre of Sports Research, and the vest has been validated to show it absorbs a high level of contact.”

The AFLW embraced the impact vests, and now Zena Sport is expanding into other sports.

“The last 18 months we’ve been going flat out, AFLW was our first port of call but Melissa Barbieri jumped onboard quickly and she loves wearing it in goal,” Donna said.

“Soccer is one sport that the vest has been well received, and the feedback has been great so we want to push it even further and harder through the soccer world.”

Melissa Barbieri, a former Matilda’s goalkeeper, had an early opportunity to test the vest out before launch.

“Once I tried it I felt that little more protected in collisions, and as a goalkeeper hitting the ground and the ball hitting your chest,” Barbieri said.

“I have some breast cancer in the family, so I wanted to protect myself as much as possible, so it was a welcome revelation.”

Barbieri, who played 86 times for Australia, values the product as perfect for women goalkeepers who need extra safety during games.

“First and foremost I feel it gives you compression, which is always good for recovery, but it also gives you an extra layer of protection from any hits you might have via the ground, opposition coming in or friendly fire,” she said.

“Certainly when you are in a one-on-one predicament in a game, coming out and spreading yourself with as much width as possible and not protecting yourself in the chest area, it’s perfect for feeling that little bit of extra protection.”

Brad Johnson is the Western Bulldogs’ all-time appearance holder in the AFL, and his own experiences in professional sports influenced the design of the vest.

“It was always wait until you are injured, and then protect it to return to play. In that regard, I wore a rib-guard in the final few years of playing, under my jumper without anyone knowing, and away I went,” he said.

“So from that I was keen to add that element to it which has become a really popular part of the vest.”

For Barbieri, the impact vest not only offers her safety and confidence on the field, but she also believes in the company behind the product.

“Supporting someone who is so passionate about female athletes is really great to see, and it’s a homegrown family company, so I want to get behind them as much as much as possible,” she said.

Zena Sport is providing women and girls the opportunity to play contact sport to their full potential while raising awareness about the need to protect themselves from injury.

You can visit the Zena Sport website for more information, or view the ZENA Z1 Impact Protection Vest.

2023 FIFA review underlines incredible Women’s World Cup impact

FIFA has released their ‘2023 Financials in Review’ statement which highlights the incredible financial and cultural impact of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup heavily contributed to FIFA’s television broadcasting success with the body’s revenue total reaching AU$408.4 mil. The coverage was exceptional with the tournament being shown in over 200 territories by 130 broadcasters and in all other markets thanks to the FIFA+ platform. In order to provide for the ever-growing popularity of the women’s game, FIFA has adapted its media rights sales strategy by taking a more comprehensive and detailed approach to the market.

The skyrocketing television audiences have been replicated on FIFA’s digital platforms. Traffic in the tournament surpassed the entirety of the 2019 tournament within 12 days, welcoming 22 million unique users, with an average of 2.4 million users visiting FIFA Women’s World Cup channels daily.

The biggest source of income was the sale of marketing rights from commercial partnerships, which delivered AU$697 million, more than 101% over budget. FIFA successfully renewed record long-term partnerships with Hyundai/Kia, Qatar Airways and Visa to cover the Women’s World Cup and 2026 Men’s World Cup. A total of 30 sponsors signed up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, up from 22 in the 2019 edition and they were duly rewarded for that.

Hospitality rights and ticketing sales for the FIFA Women’s World Cup amounted to AU$65.7 million, another record that the tournament smashed.

FIFA benefited from a strong demand for ticket and hospitality packages for this unique tournament, which also set a new Women’s World Cup record with nearly two million tickets sold, smashing their target of 1.5 million that was set in 2019 after the previous edition.

The average attendance rate across the tournament’s 64 matches was 87% with the highest crowd being 75,784 fans packed into a sold-out Stadium Australia to watch the Spain-England final.

Football Australia and the subsequent State federations all have the same focus in terms of making sure they successfully leverage the home World Cup and surpass their KPI’s.

In Football Australia’s One Football Framework, it states that they want to ‘reshape the game for Women and Girls’ which will start by aligning their digital and data strategies to be more focused on women which is similar to FIFA’s successful approach.

Recently the ‘Play our way’ program shows the government’s commitment with them providing $200 million in grants to improve sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia in the hopes to create a solid base for future growth.

The Legacy ’23 investments into Football that will amount to AU$296 million, will be key in maintaining growth and talent development as the A-Leagues sort out issues with professionalism and club finances that are affecting both the Men’s and Women’s game.

The success of the recent u20’s Young Matildas Asian Cup can’t be underestimated either in terms of the bright future this country is showing. A third place finish and bronze medal was the best ever finish from a Young Matildas side in the competition, with the squad featuring four players under the age of 18, one of the youngest in the competition.

These statistics by FIFA show that women’s football is experiencing a surge of interest and recognition, and the framework set out by Football Australia can ensure that is success is sustained long-term and positively affects participation at grassroots level.

Football Queensland one step closer to gender parity

Football Queensland have released numbers for the 2023 year that show a steep rise in female participation across all age groups following the incredible Women’s World Cup held on home soil.

In 2023, the split for Football Queensland participation was set at 69.8% Male and 30.2% Female which represents a hefty increase from 25.5% participation in 2022. The federation have been adamant that the 50/50 gender parity goal can be achieved by the start of the 2027 season which matches Football Australia’s Gender Equality Action Plan.

In the 2023-2026 Football Queensland Strategic Plan, the federation recognised that they had to transform their Women and Girls Strategy by integrating it with FQ’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan and Schools Strategy to supercharge growth.

The plan mentioned that there will be new facilities in place for boys and girls teams built in Brisbane’s North which will deliver state-of-the-art playing fields, a clubhouse, and community spaces.

This ambition to fast track growth means that FQ are putting an emphasis on creating the best possible foundation for ongoing growth on their path to 50/50 participation. This consists of improving numbers in coaching, volunteering and refereeing for women and girls.

Quickly, the federation are seeing results in many different sectors of the women’s game, most recently announcing that there was an incredible 81.4% participation increase recorded at women and girls festivals and programs in 2023.

FQ also has an ongoing commitment to supporting the progression of female coaches which was seen in the 2023 success that resulted in a 28% increase in female coach numbers for the year.

The next step for Football Queensland is ensuring the up and coming talent in the women’s game is properly developed by making use of the FQ Academy QAS program. The program has been a major success and has produced players for Australia’s national teams, including eight players in the CommBank Matildas squad for the 2023 WWC.

The strategic plan key targets outlined that FQ are ensuring there will be at least 25 Advanced female technical directors and female technical staff in key roles across Queensland by 2026.

This drive to utilise the success of the 2023 WWC along with strategic planning and tactical investment in the women’s game has allowed the federation to see enormous growth so quickly.

They are well on their way to hitting important KPI’s, similar to the 50/50 gender parity by 2027 and 62,000 club based female participants by 2026 which signify the change in modern football.

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