The initiative by FIFPRO, in collaboration with Women in Football, will assist the participants in their development towards governance and leadership roles in the football industry.
It follows FIFPRO’s recent decision to triple the number of women on its global board.
The 14 come from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Senegal, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay. They include footballers, player union staff, lawyers and business entrepreneurs.
The programme will be guided by Ebru Koksal, chair of Women in Football, and other WIF experts Jane Purdon, Professor Sue Bridgewater, Monique Choudhuri and Lungi Macebo.
After working in finance, Koksal held roles including Chief Executive of Turkish club Galatasaray and general secretary of the Turkish football federation.
FIFPRO spoke to Koksal about her career and ‘Ready to Board’.
Did you find it challenging as a woman in a football boardroom?
It was always find your own way in my career. I developed my leadership style on my own but along the way I witnessed a lot of discrimination. Sometimes it’s hard to define what it is. It’s just a sexist comment, not being invited to a social event, or not getting the same level of opportunity. It makes you feel excluded. It makes you lose your confidence. In finance, I never felt inhibited in the same way. That business related fear is not as inherent as in football.
What inspired you to mentor other women?
I was faced with a really difficult rebound period in my career when I took a one week course at Harvard. We dug deep in our lives to find out our weak spots and strengths I came out of it extremely inspired. I found the urge to find others who needed help in their own journeys. Women working in football have valuable ideas but often they cannot find a supportive environment. They are afraid someone will say ‘that’s a stupid idea’, and so they choose not to say anything. That’s such a waste.
What do you expect the 14 women take from the courses?
There is a strange relief that you are not the only one having a very difficult time in football. It’s not only you. Whether you are in Finland, Ghana or Paraguay you might be having the same kind of issue. You get that feeling of solidarity and learn from each other. You come out motivated and inspired and determined to address some of the issues you are facing and learn to be confident and be happy.
Can you give some examples of how women benefited from your previous courses?
There are some great examples. There was a self-employed football presenter who was very apologetic whenever she was trying to justify her fees and kept offering a discount. Finally she realized her real worth. Another woman was in the human resources department of a Premier League club but her heart was on the football side. She wanted to create a role in player care and she wrote a proposal writing why such a position should exist. She got the job. It’s about facing your fears and becoming more confident and influential.