New FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended a women’s football and leadership conference at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday and agreed that gender equality is needed to be a priority for his administration.
Infantino, elected last month to replace Sepp Blatter, is yet to appoint a secretary general and was told by tennis great Billie Jean King that the post should go to someone with a proven record of supporting gender equality.
“The conference room here today has been full of positive energy, full of goodwill, full of good intentions, and I take this all with me in order to focus in the future as well on making this conference not only a one-off event, but the start of a development which we all want to see to increase the women in football and the women’s football game,” said Infantino at the conference.
The conference began with an address by King who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, including six at Wimbledon between 1966 and 1975.
She also became a feminist sports idol when her 1973 defeat of self-confessed “chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs set women’s rights and tennis on the road to a modern game.
“FIFA have the most unbelievable opportunity, this is their moment of truth to do something extraordinary, and that is to change the culture of FIFA, and that will help the world be a better place,” she said. “And that’s why I said in my speech at the very end, instead of ‘For the game, for the world’, I put ‘For the game, for the girl, for the world’.
“What do I want for women in football? It’s very simple. I just want gender equality, I want the same enthusiasm, the same investment and the same caring for women’s football as we already have in men’s football. We are way behind, but it’s possible.”
FIFA has passed a raft of reforms which include allocating at least six places on the new 36-member FIFA council, which will replace the executive committee, to women.