“We must a find a way to break the glass ceiling preventing women from reaching positions of responsibility within our organisations,” announced Michel Platini the UEFA President in Paris on Tuesday, as he outlined an initiative to appoint a woman onto the UEFA Executive Committee.
The highest body of European football had voted the day before to go some way to opening up its structures and co-opt a woman from one of UEFA’s 19 committees in the next few weeks.
The decision has come about in part as the result of an ongoing UEFA and FARE initiative proposed in December 2009 by the English FA, to identify the issues of the lack of representation of women and ethnic minorities within the higher echelons of football.
The most recent part of the project was a seminar in Amsterdam in January co-hosted by the Dutch FA, the KNVB, at which speakers from within football administration, ex-players and the FARE network came together, as new research surveying the representation of women and ethnic minorities was launched.
Michel Platini continued his introduction to the proposal at the Paris Congress by 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.
“I am committed to moving in this direction and overcoming institutional discrimination.”
‘Women are one of the biggest social movements’
The move will also give hope that under-representation of all forms can begin to be addressed across the sport, from the lack of open access to football for some ethnic minorities, to the small number of black players in coaching positions.
Karen Espelund, one of the highest regarded female administrators in world football, who held the post of General Secretary of the Norwegian FA for 10 years and an advocate of quotas as a means of bringing about change said,
“As one of the biggest social movements women must be given the possibility to take active part in all functions – not only as players.
“With this decision UEFA 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.”
‘A significant first step’
FARE Executive Director Piara Powar commented, “This is a significant first step. To see Europe’s governing body make one place available with a commitment to build on this presence, sends a clear signal to the rest of football that the future lies in equality and genuine recognition of talent.
“Congratulations are due to those who have made this change happen within UEFA and our colleagues within FARE. We will of course continue to lobby for further change, but an idea that we thought was a distant dream has become more of a reality this week”.
The summary report of research conducted by Dr. Steve Bradbury, Representation and structural discrimination in football in Europe: The case of ethnic minorities and women can be downloaded here [pdf].