Laura McAllister: Former Wales captain stands for place on Fifa Council

By Dafydd PritchardBBC Sport Wales
Laura McAllister
Laura McAllister is Professor of Public Policy at Cardiff University

Former Wales captain Laura McAllister is standing for election for the Uefa women's place on Fifa's ruling council.

McAllister has been deputy chair of Uefa's women's football committee since 2017 and is a former Sport Wales chair.

All British football associations support her bid to become Uefa's female delegate on the Fifa Council, a role currently held by Evelina Christillin.

"I think I've got a contribution to make, knowing the game inside out for women and men," McAllister said.

Speaking to BBC Sport Wales, she added: "Whilst I've got a background in women's football as an ex-player, I'm also very interested and engaged in all aspects of the game, for boys and girls and for men and women.

"So it's areas like grassroots development, coach education, refereeing, funding, resourcing - all are areas where I think I can make a contribution.

"But I don't want to present this as being all about me. It would be a tremendous achievement for all of us in Wales if we were to have our first member of Fifa Council.

"And if I were to be elected, I'd also be the first woman of any of the British nations to sit on Fifa Council.

"Firsts are not of any great consequence in their own right but I think it tells you where we are with diversity of governance in football.

"And as somebody who's got credibility having played the game, I'd be able to speak authoritatively I hope for all aspects of football."

The election of the European members of the Fifa Council is scheduled to take place on 2 March, 2021 at Uefa Congress, where the 55 member associations of European football's governing body will cast their votes.

If elected, McAllister would become Uefa's first female member of the Fifa Council who has also played at international level.

The Fifa Council is the main decision-making body of football's world governing organisation.

Led by Fifa president Gianni Infantino, the council consists of 37 members, including eight vice-presidents elected by the member associations.

There is one vice-president for each of Fifa's six confederations, apart from its largest, Uefa, which has three.

A minimum of one female representative must be elected per confederation. Christillin is Uefa's sole current female member on the council.

"I'm passionate about improving the diversity of sports governance, whether that's in football or anywhere else," said McAllister.

"But things take time and I think we've got to be realistic. If I were to be elected, then I'd want to get to know the organization and be clear what my contribution could be, and nothing riles people more than somebody racing in and trying to change everything.

"I don't think they'd have that authority or profile anyway, so I think it's a softly, softly approach.

"But there's no reason in in this day and age - with the zeitgeist that's dominant now around diversity, not just for women but for BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] people as well - that we shouldn't be looking to improve and diversify sports governance.

"And in fairness I think this is very much on their [Fifa's] agenda as well.

"But I do feel quite strongly that there's no point being on any organization if you're not prepared to speak up and try and instigate change.

"You have to do that in a realistic way and in a strategic way and in a courteous way and, if I'm successful, I'll want to contribute in a way that is constructive and it takes people with me, rather than getting backs up."

McAllister, who won 24 caps for Wales from 1994 to 2001, is an experienced sports administrator.

She was Sport Wales chair between 2010 and 2016, and during the same period she was a board member of UK Sport.

McAllister is currently a director of the Football Association of Wales Trust as well as the chair of the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame.

This will be her second attempt to be elected to the Fifa Council, having been blocked from doing so in 2016 by a regulation which has since been changed.

England's David Gill, the former Manchester United chief executive, was a Fifa vice-president at the time, meaning no other British person could apply according to the world governing body's rules.

Christillin was the only other candidate and was therefore elected at Uefa's extraordinary congress in Athens that year.

Now Fifa's rules have been changed, however, the Football Association of Wales has nominated McAllister.

The FAW's chief executive, Jonathan Ford, said: "I am delighted to put forth Laura McAllister as a candidate in the knowledge that she would be a formidable representative on Fifa Council.

"Laura has excellent credentials with an immense understanding of both the game and governance, and we look forward to supporting her campaign for election."