Laura McAllister believes Wales could reap significant financial benefits if her bid for the UEFA executive committee post is successful in April.

McAllister, currently vice-chairman of the UEFA Women’s Football Committee and a member of the UEFA gender equality working group, announced earlier this month her desire to fill the vacant seat on the women’s committee.

The decision comes after the executive committee of the French Football Federation suspended current president Florence Ardouin as chief executive of the association following an investigation by So Foot magazine into an alleged toxic culture of bullying and alcoholism within the dean’s body. The suspension forces Ardouin to run again.

While McAllister remains to be seen whether her quest will be contested, she is confident that her campaign, if successful, will not only make McAllister Wales’ first representative on the committee, but also the first time a woman with experience in the football: a former player player or coach: will be elected to the senior council

Speaking to WalesOnline, the former Wales international said a successful outcome would also see Wales reap significant financial benefits through the domestic influence associated with the role.

The UEFA Executive Committee, the organisation’s highest executive body, which includes presidents, 16 members elected by the UEFA Congress, two elected by the European club associations and one by the European leagues, has more influence than the FIFA Council (to which McAllister ended up applying). failed). campaign two years ago to act as UEFA’s female representative) and, according to McAllister, is “the most powerful lever in European football”, with incredible influence on decisions about the Champions League and the European Championship.

“The reality is, if I get elected, it will probably be slow,” he said. “I can’t change things overnight when the guns are fired. It would be arrogant to say that. That said, we’ve had some very quick wins, most notably representing Wales on football’s biggest stage, something that’s never happened before. »

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar showed the Welsh government the power of football, which represents Wales “in terms of selling the nation” to the rest of the world. Wales benefited from a major global media platform, including its response to an embarrassing incident involving the confiscation of rainbow-red wall hats (including Macalister’s hat) from stadiums, which demonstrated Wales’ values ​​and beliefs. of Wales on the world stage.

Such outreach is critical to the development of Wales’ international brand, says McAllister, a columnist for WalesOnline. The former Sports Wales chairman has also hinted at a joint UK-Ireland bid for Euro 2028, with a seat on UEFA’s executive committee potentially influencing the outcome.

“This is a deal primarily for England, but the matches will be played at the Millennium Stadium, which will give the Welsh economy a significant boost,” explains McAllister. “Because in addition to what UEFA expects, they also fund grassroots projects around that. They finance the hospitality, so you can even build a new hotel if it makes sense.”

According to a report prepared jointly by the Limoges Center for the Law and Economics of Sport (CDES) and the KENEO agency, hosting Euro 2016 contributed more than 1.2 billion euros to the French economy.

McAllister is also trying to influence the bid to host the Women’s Champions League final. In 2017, a women’s exhibition tournament was held in Cardiff two days before the men’s final with incredible success. Four years ago, the average attendance for the women’s final was less than 17,000. Attendance at the Cardiff City Stadium reached 22,433 and played a key role for Wales, earning at least £45m in matchday revenue.

Now, six years after Cardiff hosted Europe’s premier competition, the Women’s Champions League has grown exponentially in terms of popularity and investment. In 2022, Barcelona’s quarter-final and semi-final matches hosted by Barcelona Femení at Camp Nou set consecutive world attendance records in women’s football, with 91,533 and 91,648 respectively. Last year’s final between Barcelona and Lyon was attended by over 32,000 viewers, with 3.6 million viewers tuning in to watch on YouTube.

McAllister believes that the opportunity to host the event would either sell out Cardiff City Stadium in a matter of days or host at Principality Stadium, which would be another major diplomatic financial and sporting boon for the country.

“The potential for insider influence on boards is significant,” said McAllister. “It’s about delivering great events, influencing the delivery of a project to help Welsh football and driving economic growth through the platform.”

McAllister’s choice could also affect women’s football in Wales and nationally. The former international won 24 caps for Wales and was part of the Women’s National Team recognized by the Football Association of Wales. She believes that history is crucial to the game’s sustainable growth.

“If I’m elected, it will be a huge step forward because so far people outside of our game have been talking about the strategy of our game, and that’s a big win in a way,” she said. “Even if we can’t change anything right away, we have consultations built into the most important structures in European football.”

For McAllister, the need to recruit more women into football’s leadership is key to making a complete and inclusive turnaround in terms of inclusion and diversity and changing the negative ‘old men’s club’ culture that has long been ingrained in football clubs. Despite the stipulation in the current UEFA statute that the committee choose at least one woman to its ranks, rather than co-opt her, following a vote in 2016 following an institutional sexism review, this stipulation is largely interpreted as “only a woman”. Ardouin is the only woman to have served on the council.

McAllister has forged crucial and potentially powerful partnerships with other important women in football, including UEFA women’s boss Nadine Kessler, Icelandic association president Wanda Sigurgeirsdottir, Norwegian association president Lisa Claveness and association president Debbie Hewitt . However, McAllister points out that the last three have only held their positions in the last 18 months.

“It looks good now, more women in positions of power, but it’s quite fragile,” he added. It’s not systemic yet.”

Elections for the UEFA executive committee will take place on Wednesday 5 April at the UEFA meeting in Lisbon, where McAllister will need a majority of the 55 delegates.

Source: Wales Online