The European governing body of football UEFA, today announced the appointment of a woman, Norwegian Karen Espelund, to its Executive Committee “as a member by invitation”.
The historic move comes after the UEFA Congress agreed in March to co-opt a woman onto European football’s highest body. President Michel Platini told the Paris Congress, “we must a find a way to break the glass ceiling preventing women from reaching positions of responsibility within our organisations”.
Espelund highly regarded
Karen Espelund is one of the highest regarded female administrators in world football. She held the post of General Secretary of the Norwegian FA for 10 years, and is currently Chairwoman of the UEFA Women’s Football Committee.
She told FARE earlier this year, “Women are one of the biggest social movements and must be given the possibility to take active part in all functions in football – not only as players.”
‘Benefit the legitimacy of governing bodies’
As an advocate of quotas she had welcomed the UEFA Congress decision saying, “It proves that football can be for all – on all levels. This will benefit football as such and also the legitimacy of governing bodies in the long run.”
The UEFA decision has come about in part as the result of an ongoing UEFA and FARE initiative to identify the issues of the lack of representation of women and ethnic minorities within the higher echelons of football.
In January a seminar co-hosted by the Dutch FA (KNVB) examined the issue of institutional discrimination in Amsterdam as new research surveying the representation of women and ethnic minorities was launched.
Two months later Michel Platini continued his introduction to the quota proposal at the Paris Congress saying, “This is a first but symbolic step towards a better representation in decision-making bodies but symbols are sometimes key to changing the way we think..”
FARE Executive Director Piara Powar welcomed the move, “Our congratulations to UEFA for taking what is unquestionably a bold step in a highly conservative environment and sending a clear signal to the rest of football.
“Our best wishes to Karen for whom this is just recognition of her talents as a football leader.
“We know this move will also offer hope that under-representation of all forms can begin to be addressed, from the lack of open access to football for some ethnic minorities, to the small number of black players in coaching positions.”