UEFA vice president urges women to force their way into boardrooms

Image: Matthew Dickens/BeatMedia
Image: Matthew Dickens/BeatMedia

By Megan Armitage

Vice President of UEFA Laura McAllister is urging women to force their way into the boardroom in a bid to create change at the top of women's football.

McAllister has been integral in the developing the women's game during her storied career both on the pitch as a former Wales national team player and off the pitch as a member of UEFA Executive Committee.

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing, with the Welshwoman clearly remembering the intimidating moment she walked into the UEFA board room as the only woman.

Now on a mission to create change in the game from the governance within, McAllister is now speaking out on the importance of more women having a voice at the table, even if that means filling quotas.

"I discovered at the age of 12 that I couldn't play football with the boys any longer and I remember this raging sense of injustice of that even then," she said, speaking at the Women In Football Be Inspired Conference in partnership with Barclays.

"It's always been about making the sport better for the next generation and we were fortunate enough to convince the FA of Wales to take over the women's national team back in 1994 and I went on play for the team 24 times.

"For me, it's about using the practical experience of playing to change the way that football is run.

"At times it's been a lonely place, walking into the room as the only woman at UExCo and at constantly being the only woman in the room.

"We need to be more up front about making sure women are there on those boards and if that takes quotas then that's fine because quotas are needed when you don't have a meritocracy and we obviously don't have promotions based on merit in football at the moment."

McAllister knows that she is not alone in the difficulties she has faced on her journey to the top and noted that the change she pushes for everyday is part of a need to inspire a confidence in the past and future women in football.

"There are times when it's difficult but we have to remember that we're doing it for the younger generations coming through and for the older generation who have paved the way for us," she said.

"Anybody who says they don't occasionally feel intimidated is kidding themselves but I know when I look around UEFA ExCo that I know just as much or more about football than the other people there.

"You just need to remind yourself of that merit for being there and give yourself that inner confidence."

Credit: Matthew Dickens/BeatMedia

The Women in Football, Be Inspired Conference
Credit: Matthew Dickens/BeatMedia The Women in Football, Be Inspired Conference

McAllister was invited to be a speaker on a panel entitled 'Governing the Game: The urgent need for reform' at the recent Women In Football Be Inspired Conference in partnership with Barclays.

The two-day event at Wembley Stadium was attended by approximately 800 people, with McAllister speaking on how crucial 'unsexy' governance in the progression of the women's game.

"It was a great panel and discussion about the governance of women's football and women's sport more generally affects the outcomes," she said.

"It seems to me that until you get the governance in sport right you simply won't make the right decisions that create the positive trajectory for women in football.

"Decisions are made around the table and committees and we don't have enough women's voices being heard at that level.

"It might be the unsexy bit of football but governance is fundamental in developing the women's game in a way that's sustainable."