Inside Lines: Will a woman soon run the FA's old boys' club?

More women are stalking sport’s corridors of power than ever before, with 2015 seeing a welcome escalation of feminine presence in key administrative posts

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The Independent Online

More women are stalking sport’s corridors of power than ever before, with 2015 seeing a welcome escalation of feminine presence in key administrative posts. Apart from a female sports minister, Helen Grant, who is committed to the cause of sporting emancipation, the chief executives at Sport England and UK Sport are both women – Jennie Price and Liz Nicholl respectively – while former Lord Coe aide Emma Boggis is now in a similar role at the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

Another of London 2012’s leading ladies, former tennis player Debbie Jevans, is arguably the most important female figure in sport this year as she is responsible for organising the rugby union World Cup. You won’t find a more macho environment than that – unless it is at the Football Association.

Now there is speculation that even that male-dominated institution will consider hiring a woman as chief executive to replace the departing Alex Horne.

We understand the FA’s chairman, Greg Dyke, has made it clear he would not be averse to a female candidate. One who has the qualifications is Sunderland’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, a 33-year-old lawyer from Belfast who is already on the FA Council and a member of the International Committee. She has impressed at the club she joined as in-house lawyer in 2007, becoming CEO three years ago.

Heather Rabbatts, the only female FA board member, and Karren Brady, the West Ham vice-chair, would also be on any headhunters’ list; but the feisty Rabbatts may be too strong-willed for the old boys’ brigade and politically ambitious Tory peer Brady is unlikely to want the job.

Rabbatts, who with Grant chaired a meeting between football bodies last week, reports progress is being made to end the closed system which sees so few black coaches, managers and administrators in the game (see pages 8-9). It seems girl power is getting things sorted. About time too.

Electing to move on

Two former Olympics ministers who were on opposite sides of the political divide but worked in unison to make 2012 such a success will seek pastures new after the general election. Conservative Sir Hugh Robertson and Labour’s Dame Tessa Jowell are to step down as MPs.

Robertson, 52, outstanding among a long line of Tory sports ministers, is ideally placed to head the British Olympic Association should Lord Coe relinquish the chair in the likely event of winning the IAAF presidency. Jowell, 67, has her own sights set on succeeding Boris Johnson as mayor of London and is favourite to be Labour’s nominee for next year’s race. She says she would put fulfilling the city’s Olympic legacy at the heart of her campaign.

All change for Frankie

Beset by domestic upheavals and his own waywardness, Frankie Gavin has never quite fulfilled his promise as one of Britain’s finest boxing prospects. At 29 he remains Britain’s only world amateur champion and is the reigning British welterweight champion, with only one defeat on his pro record.

But Frank Warren is not renewing his promotional and managerial contract with the southpaw. Gavin who looked a cert for Olympic glory in 2008 but failed to make the weight, should have been mixing it with the Mayweathers and Khans, but his motivation went walkabout.  Maybe a change of direction – he’s set to join Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable – will help do the trick.

a.hubbard @independent.co.uk

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