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Women's leadership focus

UEFA's Women in Football Leadership Programme aims to bring more women into senior positions in football, with the latest seminar taking place in Nyon this week.

UEFA President Michel Platini has spoken about why the UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme is an important new step in aiding the development of women involved in coaching, refereeing and management.

UEFA's work at the vanguard of the movement to bring more women into senior roles in football takes centre stage this week, with the latest of the European body's Women in Football Leadership Programme (WFLP) gatherings.

The House of European Football in Nyon is welcoming representatives of European national associations, and distinguished guests and delegates from the world football body FIFA, as well as UEFA's sister continental confederations OFC (Oceania) and CONCACAF (North, Central America and Caribbean). The five-day gathering is aimed at the further development of a programme designed in particular to identify individuals who have the potential to become leaders, and to equip them with the requisite skills. In addition, women already in leadership positions are being offered additional support in their roles.

Among the high-profile guests will be Viviane Reding, Member of the European Parliament and former vice-president of the European Commission, who will give a keynote speech at the seminar. In April, the inaugural WFLP seminar was attended by the European Commissioner responsible for sport, Androulla Vassiliou, who gave unequivocal support to the programme and welcomed UEFA's initiative, which followed feedback from, and consultation with, its member associations.

It is a fact that more women are now in leadership roles in the game – by way of an example, Karen Espelund (Norway) is now a full member of the UEFA Executive Committee in addition to her position as chairwoman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee. Nevertheless, figures still show that very few women occupy national association leadership posts. The aim of the WFLP is to step up a development process within Europe's national associations.

"The quality of women's football has grown exponentially over the last decade – and UEFA has done its best to develop all women's competitions," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "We must now dedicate more resources to ensure that women also have a place in other areas of football, such as coaching, refereeing and management. This is why we created the Women's Football Leadership Programme."

"Equality and integration are both essential to the development of the football workforce," added Karen Espelund. "Football has come a long way over the last few years, but there is still an evident lack of women in top-level positions. More needs to be done to change perspectives and increase opportunities. The UEFA women's leadership programme has adopted an innovative approach by locating and developing potential female executives from the 54 member associations and helping them climb up the ladder of promotion."

The seminar programme is comprehensive and focuses on a variety of topics relevant to the individual qualities and working tools necessary for leadership – self-awareness and the capacity for self-analysis, networking skills, teamwork and team-building, the ability to influence, coaching others, and making an impact in a high-profile role. In addition, men and women leaders from inside and outside football are participating in the programme in a mentor role – giving crucial advice and exchanging experiences with participants along their development path. UEFA is also making use of the experience of staging knowledge-sharing workshops and personal development programmes for association staff.

"I notice that football has now become an increasingly popular sport for young girls and women," said Vassiliou during her visit to UEFA in April, "and I'm happy that the stereotype that football is not for girls is starting to wither and disappear. Times are indeed, changing. There's a great need to reach a more balanced representation of women in key positions of coaching and leadership with sport governing bodies. Football organisations should encourage and facilitate this trend. And there can be no excuse today for excluding women."

"UEFA, through its new women's leadership programme, is concentrating on increasing the number of women occupying executive positions in football," says UEFA national associations' director Theodore Theodoridis. "This is an important long-term development programme, and will draw on the female expertise of the 54 UEFA member associations to ensure that leadership skills are recognised, nurtured and implemented across the European football family."