Posted: Tuesday November 29, 2011 3:06PM ; Updated: Tuesday November 29, 2011 3:06PM

Head of women's game for FIFA backs WPS

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- The head of the women's game for FIFA says it would be a "pity'' if the Women's Professional Soccer league in the United States failed to survive.

Tatjana Haenni, head of women's competitions for the governing body, said Tuesday that the league needed to be put on a solid financial footing. It was recently reduced from six teams to five. The league began in 2009 with seven teams.

Speaking in Rio de Janeiro at the trade show Soccerex, Haenni said the women's game relied heavily on the United States as it developed the first professional league for women but officials need to find a sustainable formula.

"The professional league in the United States is obviously a league the world looks at,'' the Swiss said. "It was the first professional league for women's football and it plays in a huge country known as one of the strongest countries in women football. I think it's important that the league continues.

"It would really be a pity for women's football if, in the U.S., there is no professional league.''

English national team player Eniola Aluko, who plays in the league for Sky Blue, suggested WPS should have taken a more conservative approach.

"It has brought together the best players in the world for the most professional league,'' Aluko said. "I was fortunate to join in the inaugural year when all the players were having fantastic salaries.''

Haenni and Aluko were speaking on a panel at the only workshop of about 20 across three days dedicated to the women's game.

"It's sad, really,'' Aluko said. "It's difficult. We're sitting here saying women's football is the fastest growing sport, but at the same time the best league is struggling. I hope the WPS figures out a way of stabilizing itself.''

Haenni suggested FIFA needs to focus more on the women's game, although she acknowledged there has been progress. She said most of FIFA's development programs targeted the game in general, but not women specifically.

"For me, you could be more powerful and have greater impact if you had more women-specific programs,'' Haenni said. "You need to have women-specific programs, otherwise you will not increase the development.''

Haenni said the Brazil Football Confederation, which is host for the 2014 men's World Cup, has done little to promote the women's game despite Brazilian star Marta, a five-time FIFA player of the year.

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