Viviane Reding, a member of the European Parliament and former vice-president of the European Commission, has visited UEFA – and gave a glowing reference to the European body’s objective to bring more women into senior positions in football.
During her visit to the House of European Football in Nyon, Mrs Reding met UEFA President Michel Platini for talks on various European football issues, and gave a keynote speech to participants in the latest UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme (WFLP) seminar, in which she urged women to have the courage and commitment to follow their dreams and achieve success.
The five-day WFLP seminar has the objective of further developing a programme designed in particular to identify individuals who have the potential to become leaders, and to equip them with the requisite skills. Moreover, women already in leadership positions are being offered additional support in their roles.
“Thank you for putting a system in place which will help women’s football take off,” Mrs Reding, a sports fan herself, told Mr Platini. During a passionate speech, Mrs Reding then told the audience of her life experiences, in particular as a journalist and eventually a politician – and her determination to succeed and make use of her own strengths along her life path, often in male-dominated environments.
“Do you have a dream?” Mrs Reding asked. “Do you know the task of putting this dream into practice? Go for it [the dream]. You will see a lot of obstacles – but each obstacle makes you stronger. Stay as you are and be yourself – be feminine, and don’t become a copy of somebody. If you have a failure, try once more.”
“Michel Platini, I would like to thank you that you have understood that women are part of our society, and that women’s football is cool,” she added. “[UEFA's] leadership programme and [women's football] development programme are the right way ahead. Women’s football has come a long way, because there was a time when women were not allowed to play football. You are pioneers, you can create something that can become a success story.”
Michel Platini admitted that even nowadays, it is still difficult to find women in management positions in football organisations – at club level or within national leagues and associations. “We have therefore decided to start reversing that trend,” he explained, “and the programme that has brought us all together today represents an important step in the gradual destruction of the infamous ‘glass ceiling’, which prevents women from reaching the highest levels of their organisations.”
“I believe that things are improving, and that we are making progress – maybe not as rapidly as some might justifiably like, but we can say, like Galileo, ‘Eppur si muove’ – ‘And yet, it moves.’”
Both Mr Platini and Mrs Reding welcomed the cooperation agreement signed by UEFA and the European Commission, which strengthens the relationship between the two parties in the interests of the long-term development of sport in general, and football in particular.
Under the new agreement, the European Commission and UEFA pledge to consolidate these relations, and to facilitate future cooperation in matters of mutual interest. The UEFA President thanked Mrs Reding for her invaluable contribution towards the healthy mutual relationship. “You have resolutely opened the door to a new era in relations between the European Commission and UEFA,” he said. “An era that was crowned a few days ago with the signing of a historic agreement between the two institutions.”