The Irish Football Association is committed to ensuring that more women in Northern Ireland become involved in football leadership positions – and UEFA is giving its full support.
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UEFA is striving to bring more women into leadership positions in football, and is also giving support to national associations who are running similar campaigns at domestic level.
In Northern Ireland, seven inspirational young women who completed the Irish Football Association (IFA) Female Football Leaders Programme had their achievement acknowledged at a graduation ceremony at the Stormont Parliament Buildings. The seven – Gemma Brown, Fionnuala Conlon, Lauren Crawford, Aimée McKeown, Shelby McReynolds, Bridgin Parker and Judith Reid, who are aged between 17 and 25 – were recruited for the training following the success of the pilot IFA programme in 2013.
"Women remain very much in the minority in leadership positions in football," said Niamh Shiells, director, advance coaching and course tutor, "and the IFA Female Football Leaders Programme aims to change this situation.
"This is not a gender issue; this is a football and business issue. Women are significantly under-represented in executive and board positions in the industry and yet have considerable knowledge and skills that could be harvested more widely to benefit football. This programme aims to provide the talent pipeline to achieve this."
The seven young women will use the knowledge and skills they have developed to benefit football. "The IFA is committed to ensuring that more women become involved in the higher echelons of the game and at decision-making level in particular," explained Sara Booth, IFA women's domestic football manager. "The Female Football Leaders Programme plays a key role in this process and we will be asking all the graduates to put all their learning into practice and be pioneers for the sport, as they work with clubs that are based right across Northern Ireland.
"This programme is funded through the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme and we are extremely grateful to UEFA for its continued support of our work in this area," she added. "This is a group of exceptionally talented young women and we are confident that they will each make a significant contribution to football in their own unique way."