It seems newly re-elected FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has some competition on the horizon. No, it’s not the 2026 World Cup, but instead a “woman” called Hope Sogni.
We put “woman” in quotation marks not to question her gender, but her species. Hope has been put forward as an AI representative or alternative for real women, in order to show FIFA management and the wider world, how “the game could be run differently”.
What does this mean for the future of AI, the sports industry, or even women in sports management? We explore here.
Who – or what – is Hope Sogni?
Hope Sogni is an AI-generated representative of women in football management. She has aspirations of being FIFA’s 10th, albeit first female, president. She was designed by Twise.ai and sports creative agency Dark Horses, and spearheaded by the CEO of Lewes FC, Maggie Murphy, to place a progressive programme at FIFA that put emphasis on the vital role occupied by women in the decision-making process.
Hope launched her presidential campaign on Wednesday 22nd November, including a manifesto that strongly states that “football governance is broken”. She goes on to say that “FIFA must hold up its own mirror and decide whether what they see looking back is in fact a beautiful game because all I see is a century of misogyny that has overshadowed its ability to truly be a game for all”. Those are strong words for Infantino to face.
Hope is called AI, and she is, but she also isn’t, in that she was built on the voices of women who are influential in the industry. Her personality, understanding of the game, her politics, and takes on key issues are built on the foundation of names like former vice-captain of Australia, Moya Dodd, who is one of the first women on the FIFA Council. Additionally, Hope was built to talk to in real time about the sports issues of the day.
What is AI’s growing role in sports analysis?
Hope’s story highlights how AI is increasingly capable of complex analysis and insights when it comes to sports strategy, player evaluations, predictive modelling and more that informs decision-making. FIFA, much like TV and film producers, game developers and anyone looking to appease the masses relies on data – and AI is increasingly becoming the main contributing factor in this data.
Artificial intelligence tools and predictive modelling have shown increasing value and capability when applied to data-driven sports analysis in recent years. The use of complex machine learning algorithms to crunch data and identify hidden insights human analysts might miss is becoming far more pervasive across major professional sports and collegiate athletics.
However, if that data is led by men and aimed at appeasing men, ignoring a core audience due to the tradition of “This is the way it’s always been” and management “knowing” their audience, then there is a gap that makes space for Hope. Hope is made by women, for women, aiming to make the game more inclusive for all.
Is Hope Sogni a benefit or a hindrance?
There is a lot of things to love about this approach. Hope would be one voice speaking for all women management, hopefully, in turn, speaking for the women audience of The Beautiful Game. She would also solve the problem of relying too much on the data without a human touch, being part AI and part not.
However, running for president of FIFA is going to make Hope come up against some foundational problems. Forgetting the practicality or the otherworldliness of testing out an AI program as leader of one of the biggest conglomerates on the planet, it’s hardly very pro-woman to skip over the idea of a human woman president for a women-presenting computer for president.
We have a lot of influential and intelligent women in sports management, some who are mentioned in this very article. To give you more examples, there is Fatma Samoura, current Secretary General of FIFA, the first-ever female senior executive at FIFA and the highest-ranking woman in the organisation’s history. There is also Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer who oversees all of the development and growth of the women’s game globally. And finally, there is Josephine Henning, former German women’s national team player and current Head of Women’s Football Development programs in the Middle East and Asia for FIFA.
Maybe the only conclusion to offer is Hope Sogni’s own words, as reported in The Guardian this week: “No, I am not a token woman. I am a qualified and experienced candidate who is running for FIFA presidency based on my merits and my commitment to promoting gender equality and transparency in sports.”
A woman, or an AI representing women, either way, spells hope for FIFA’s future.