During the WEURO 2017, Esther Huijsmans was one of the key pillars to ensure the successful development of the tournament in Breda. As Venue Manager, she not only had to make sure that all kinds of operations were run smoothly but also to act as a connector among different working teams, as UEFA or NAC Breda. Her expertise in major sports events such as 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup, 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics or Baku 2015 European Games as well as her compromise have been indispensable for the whole team. In the following interview, Esther provides her valuable inside perspective of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017:
Record-breaking TV audiences, attendances and digital impacts… Why it has been so successful?
I think the time was right to organise the Women’s EURO in the Netherlands. Football for girls and women is becoming more popular across Europe and it currently is the fastest growing sport in the Netherlands. Besides the increased overall interest, we were also ‘lucky’ that our home team, the ‘Oranje Leeuwinnen’ played a great tournament and even won it.
“The stadium had to be ready in a short time and with a relatively small team”
As Breda Venue Manager, you have been working very hard during months. How have you lived this experience from the inside?
It is of course great to be part of such an amazing event. It is indeed hard work, not the normal 9 – 5 office hours, but you get so much in return. I have worked on different large-scale sport events, but being able to do that in my own country makes it extra special. A lot of work had to be done in a relatively short timeframe and with a small team, but working together with the football club NAC, with UEFA and with all volunteers really made it a team effort. I can only be very proud and feel very privileged to be a part of this event. Not only for the players, but also for me it was a girl’s dream.
From Brazil FIFA World Cup, Sochi Winter Olympics to Baku European Games. Given your extensive experience, which was the biggest challenge?
If you compare it to bigger events, the same amount of work has to be done, but budgets are tighter; we had to get the stadium ready in a short timeframe and with a relatively small team, which sometimes made it a challenge. The other side of it is that you are looking into creative solutions, and as mentioned above, we really did it as a team.
“There was a fan walk to the stadium with approximately 10,000 football fans”
Women’s football is in very good shape. Do you believe it will continue growing at this rhythm in the next years?
I think it will keep growing indeed; it is a popular sport anyway and it is more accessible for girls than it used to be. Looking at the results of the Women’s EURO, you can see that every country can beat another one, and that there were quite some surprises in the tournament. The sport will become more popular in a wider range of countries; new role models have emerged, which will help keeping the sport to grow.
Women’s football is the fastest-growing sport in the Netherlands. How has WEURO 2017 been lived in the host country?
I think we just have to look at all records which were broken in the Netherlands; the final was watched by 5,6 million viewers, which is an absolute record for Women’s football, in fact it was the best viewed programme on Dutch TV since July 2014, the FIFAWorld Cup in Brazil. Besides that, there was a great atmosphere in all host cities; and a fan walk to the stadium with approximately 10.000 football fans was a unique experience in the Netherlands. And personally I was happy to see that the three matches with most spectators (without the host country) were played in Breda.