Billie Jean King and Moya Dodd have teamed up to tell new FIFA president Gianni Infantino that women “are part of the solution” in rebuilding the scandal-scarred world football federation.
King, former tennis star turned stellar promoter of gender equality throughout sport, led the way at the second FIFA women’s football and leadership conference. She told Infantino: “No pressure but the world is counting on you.”
She proposed three significant steps: to commit that one-third of management appointments should be women; to appoint a secretary general with “a proven track record of supporting gender equality”; and to create a commercial strategy for the women’s game.
King added: “Not only are these reforms the right moral path but they make smart business sense. The business of women’s football has a tremendous upside and it is FIFA’s obligation to invest in the assets needed.”
Infantino has spoken repeatedly of a commitment to promoting women in football and women’s football since being elected FIFA president 10 days ago.
He was assured by Dodd, Australian member of the FIFA executive committee, that women were ready to take a progressive role in turning the organisation around.
Dodd told Infantino directly: “We’re part of the solution. Commercially FIFA has one big asset called the men’s World Cup. We [women] also have one, the Women’s World Cup and perhaps soon a Women’s Club World Cup.
“Secondly we have a big brand problem and women are part of the solution for FIFA; I haven’t heard a bad thing about the Women’s World Cup or about women in football.
“Thirdly, you have a whole lot of people who would do anything to help women advance in football. There’s an army out there who will be your supporters, your workers, your footsoldiers, your champions, to make the game better.”
FIFA has been in existence for 110 years before Lydia Nsekera of Burundi was co-opted on to the executive committee in 2012 as a designated woman member. She was properly elected onto the exco the next year when Dodd and Sonia Bien-Aime of Turks & Caicos were co-opted.
Last year Bien-Aime became the first woman to take up an ‘open’ role on the exco when she was chosen as one of the three delegates of the central and North American confederation, CONCACAF.
Under FIFA’s reforms, approved by congress last month, the exco will be replaced by a 36-strong FIFA Council with all six confederations obliged to appoint at least one woman.
Sylvia Schenk, the sports adviser for Transparency International, acknowledged the significance and value of more women in the governing council.
She said: “The problem was the old boys’ network and so women are coming into it quite new. They have not been part of the old FIFA so that will help with the reputation in having a diverse body.
“That’s a very important issue and for FIFA it’s a big chance, to be able to work with women, not only in the council, but at national and continental level.
“They will change the culture but whether they bring political change and have a big impact depends on these women themselves; six Moyas would make a real difference.
“We need a girls network and then it’s up to all of us to help FIFA.”
Infantino responded positively.
He said: “I firmly believe that women are part of the solution and that’s why I’m happy that this conference is taking place here. It is already big progress to be able to speak her and now about these things in a very open way. So then we can make things happen.”
Infantino, who has four daughters, added: “We need to have targets and work on having even more women in the council. Let’s put ambitious targets and see where we get to and what we can achieve.
“You will certainly have passion and commitment from my side.”