Fifa doesn't need a female president, but women are vital for ending corruption and misogyny in football

Studies have found that boards with female representation are less prone to scandals involving bribery and fraud

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The Independent Online

In 2012, the internationally renowned anti-bribery expert Alexandra Wrage was recruited to help reform Fifa. By 2013 she had resigned, publicly citing frustration at an unwillingness to tackle corruption and endemic sexism at the highest levels of the organisation.

Wrage has not been the only woman to draw attention to Fifa's problems with corruption. The dramatic announcement of the FBI's investigation came from formidable US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and last year Michael Garcia's report into corruption identified two female whistle blowers: Bonita Mersiades and Phaedra Almajid.

Rocked by the latest corruption scandal, is it finally time for Fifa to appoint a female president? No. Not unless she is the best candidate for the job.

Nonetheless, Fifa's Executive Committee must diversity. Although Fifa have long acknowledged the need for international representation from all corners of the globe, those representatives have an average age of 64 and only one female member. This is despite the fact that international management studies provide strong evidence that boards with female representation are less prone to scandals involving corruption, bribery and fraud, and better at responding to crisis.

Some will argue that there aren't enough senior women in football to make a convincing challenge for leadership roles. But for female talent to rise, the industry needs to move with the times, and step away from its misogynistic past.

 

Last year, when Women in Football conducted the first major survey of women's experiences in the football industry, it found that over 66 per cent of women in the sport had witnessed sexism in the workplace, and 57 per cent had directly experienced it. And of those affected, 89 per cent of women said they would not report sexism because they feared they would not be taken seriously. During the 2014/15 season, Women in Football reported 61 incidents of sexism, with most of these incidents taking place during the professional game. 

Concerns about sexism at under the previous executive at Fifa are nothing new. Former President Sepp Blatter was known for his dated views about females, and infamously suggested that women should play in "tighter shorts" to create a "more female aesthetic" and increase the popularity of the sport. Chief Executive of the Irish FA John Delaney recently revealed that he had to ask Blatter to "move on" after he stared at his girlfriend for an uncomfortably long time.

Appointing a female president is not going to be the answer to Fifa's problems. But football as a whole - not just Fifa - must change its appointment and recruitment processes to be more comprehensive in identifying the best talent available. It's not about token appointments. It's about appreciating the value of diversity.

Liz Ellen is Head of Sport at Mishcon de Reya solicitors, and a director of Women in Football. She has worked on numerous investigations into corruption in sport.

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