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IWD 2023: UEFA Academy's female programme directors pioneering change in football


On International Women's Day, we highlight the success of female leaders who are breaking down gender barriers and driving positive change in football by leading UEFA Academy courses.

UEFA Academy's female leaders
UEFA Academy's female leaders UEFA

The UEFA Academy has set an exemplary standard in promoting women's leadership and representation in football, with not one, but five talented and accomplished female leaders at the helm of its different programmes. These appointments and collaborations demonstrate the Academy's unwavering commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the football industry, and serve as an inspiration for more women to pursue leadership roles in football and sports.

Lena Gustafson Wiberg, Amanda Docherty, Ginka Toegel, Raquel Rosa and Nathalie Alaphilippe are just a few of the many female leaders who are making strides in football and paving the way for the next generation of women in the sport. They share their personal journeys and experiences, offering valuable insights and advice for aspiring female leaders.

More on the UEFA Academy

Lena Gustafson-Wiberg

Lena's football dedication began as a fan of Swedish club Djurgården. She turned her passion into her job by working as the supporter liaison officer (SLO) for both her club and national team, where she plays a critical role in facilitating positive communication between fans and management. Lena's commitment to supporters goes way beyond her role as SLO; she also works for Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and leads a specialised course for Supporter Liaison Officers at the UEFA Academy.

Lena is the director of the Supporter Liaison Officer education programme.
Lena is the director of the Supporter Liaison Officer education programme.
How did you fall in love with football?

Football was very central to my homelife growing up, as my dad was a coach. I started playing myself when I was 9 years old and kept going until I was 18. I also did 7-a-side refereeing for 4 years. Football is an environment where I’ve always felt at home.

What attracted you to working in the game?

I started volunteering for my club, Djurgården when I moved to Stockholm. This is where I got involved in the supporter movement locally, on a national and international level. When the opportunity came to work as a Supporter Liaison Officer, it felt more like a calling than a job. I am fortunate to be working with my passion.

How crucial is education in developing your career?

Knowledge is key, and it’s something you can’t have enough of. I will always be grateful for the possibility to take part in one of the UEFA Academy’s courses: the UEFA CFM open edition, and to lead one of them in my area of expertise: The Supporter Liaison Officer Education Programme.

Best memories and toughest times?

My best memories are the times where I’ve gotten to share unexpected wins with fellow supporters and when I’ve had the opportunity to share success at work with colleagues from all around the world.

When it comes to tough times it’s difficult not mentioning the pandemic. I think it was clear to almost everybody that matches without supporters is like body without heart and lungs.

More about the SLO programme

Amanda Docherty

A life-long love of the game and Amanda's belief that football is a positive force for good with a universal language has driven her to excel in the world of football communications. After starting on the football ladder as a volunteer at AFC Bournemouth, she became Head of Communications at Arsenal, where she excelled for an impressive 12 years. Her expertise in communications led her to the English Football Association, where she was appointed as Communications Director in 2016. Amanda is now leading the UEFA Academy’s course on strategic communications.

Amanda is the director of the Strategic Communications compact course.
Amanda is the director of the Strategic Communications compact course.
What attracted you to working in the game?

Truthfully, I didn’t have a career plan or lofty ambitions, but I knew if I had to work for 40 years, it must be in a field that I have a deep connection with and passion for. There was no obvious pathway into football in the mid-90s, so I started volunteering at AFC Bournemouth. In 1996, armed with a degree in public relations, I speculatively wrote to Arsenal after reading they had employed their first head of communications on the back of Euro 96.

Who were your role models? Were there any women to look up to?

My first boss at Arsenal, Clare Tomlinson was very assured and well-respected. Her guidance and trust in me helped to open historically closed doors. Equally, Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal directors placed a lot of faith in me. I was 24 when I was appointed as the head of communications and their ethos of 'if you’re good enough you’re old enough' spring-boarded me to new heights.

What has changed since you started?

Everything. Even the basics in how we communicate have changed. I didn’t have a mobile phone and Arsenal wasn’t connected to the internet. We were receiving and responding to bin bags full of handwritten fan letters every week back in 1996. Even though football has been a fast-paced, 24-7 industry for over two decades, it felt like you had more time to pause and reflect then. From my experience, I do think you were able to take more risks 20 years ago for the right reasons.

Advice for others - other women, other young people - wanting to become involved in football?

Be resilient and resourceful. Put in the work, do the research. Ask for help. Reach out to those who are doing your dream job, try and garner first-hand experience to create a point of difference for yourself. The tipping point outside of personality and values is desire. What positive actions have you taken to break into this industry? Find and understand your strengths, mobilise them and put them into action. Create a space and voice for yourself through your own channels and networks. Football is better when the people are not cardboard cut-outs of each other.

More about the UEFA SCCC

Ginka Toegel

Dr. Ginka Toegel is a professor at IMD business school and leading expert in organisational behaviour and leadership, with a focus on top management teams, women's leadership, diversity, and inclusion. She is also passionate about exploring the future of leadership and the role of technology in executive education. Prior to joining IMD, she taught at renowned institutions such as the London School of Economics and London Business School and began her career as a psychotherapist. She now leads the Women in Football Leadership Programme, organised jointly by UEFA and IMD.

Ginka is the director of the Women in Football Leadership Programme.
Ginka is the director of the Women in Football Leadership Programme.
How does football help women’s personal growth?

It helps them build endurance, agility, and perseverance. It illustrates beautifully that the team is more than the sum of each individual talent. Football makes girls more resilient. It helps them develop a healthy competitive mindset, encourages them to take risks, teaches them how to deal with winning and losing. Research suggests that girls who play team sports are more likely to graduate from college and have successful careers.

…and at the society level?

Women’s football plays an important role in shattering gender stereotypes. It’s a strong promoter of the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Nowadays, women are no longer one step behind…

What are the objectives of the Women in Football Leadership Programme (WFLP)?

The WFLP creates a unique training environment for the personal growth of talented women from around the globe. It creates a context, in which they are challenged and supported to explore own leadership identity, learn how to advocate their mission, address gender-specific career derailers (for example, assertiveness, visibility, gravitas), and build social capital by networking with other women who share similar challenges. It’s an amazing group of highly talented women, who are passionate about the beautiful game and have innovative ideas about its future.

More about the WFLP

Raquel Rosa

Hailing from Brazil, Raquel Rosa made a name for herself in the male-dominated world of agents. She started as a coach in a German regional league before joining Hoffenheim in 2007 as a management and integration expert. She also worked for RB Leipzig before transitioning to become an agent in 2018. With her extensive experience and expertise, Raquel is helping to shape the next generation of football agents by serving as the director of UEFA’s Players Agent Programme (UEFA PAP), a three-month training course that prepares individuals for a career as an agent.

Raquel is the director of the Player Agent Programme.
Raquel is the director of the Player Agent Programme.
What attracted you to working in the game?

It was a dream for me to make my hobby my work. I knew it would be very difficult as a woman to work in the professional men's world. I took the first opportunity and never let it go. I am grateful and I know that I am lucky to have a job that is also passion.

Who were your role models?

Ralf Rangnick, Hansi Flick, Helmut Gross, Hans Dieter Hermann, Ralph Hasenhüttl, Kurt Mosserter, my parents.

How crucial is education in developing your career?

Very important! Currently, there is no mandatory courses or license to complete to become an agent, but that will change soon. We need educational pathways to establish clearly what being an agent means, develop standards in the profession etc. We must not forget that we are working with the players and their career. To become an agent, exchange of knowledge and experience is also very important. At the UEFA PAP, we give future agents the opportunity to make connections and build their own network, and that’s a crucial part of the job.

Best memories and toughest times?

To hold the World Cup in my hands, be chosen by the DFB to participate in the World Cup and EURO. The commitments of all the players who work with me and trust me with their careers. To be chosen by UEFA to be the director of the UEFA Player Agent Programme. Upamecano's final game at the 2022 World Cup. Many incredible and tough moments, football is made of emotions.

More about the UEFA PAP

Nathalie Alaphilippe

Nathalie is a French lawyer with extensive expertise in sports law and litigation. As an athlete herself, Nathalie brings a unique perspective to her role as an associate lawyer at the prestigious Centre for Sports Law and Economics in Limoges, France. Nathalie's contributions to the sport industry extend beyond her legal practice, as she is also the programme director of the Executive Master in Global Sport Governance (MESGO), a highly respected programme founded by CDES in collaboration with UEFA and with the strong support of 3 other sport organisations, 4 academic partners, the Council of Europe, and awarded by the University of Limoges.

Nathalie is the director of the Executive Master in Global Sport Governance.
Nathalie is the director of the Executive Master in Global Sport Governance.
What attracted you to working in the sports industry?

As a former track and field athlete and rugby player, I’ve always been close to the world of sports. So, when I got the chance to put my law skills at the service of the sports industry, working for CDES (one of the pioneers in Europe in the field of expertise and education in the sports sector), I didn’t hesitate. In parallel, being involved in MESGO both as a session director and, since January 2022, as the director of this programme is a privilege and a real personal enrichment.

How important are the synergies between the academic and sporting worlds?

I’d say that the synergies are more and more important. MESGO is a great example of how academics and sport organisations can work together and learn from each other with the same goal and ambition: to contribute to the development of a sustainable sport governance model while prioritising diversity and inclusion in all their forms.

Working together is key to implement robust and ambitious action plans and make diversity and inclusion what they should be: the norm. I think that from the pitch to the boardroom of a sport governing body, diversity and inclusion are crucial to ensure things are steered in the right direction.

Your thoughts on the role of women in sports and society?

In my opinion, the issue is not so much about gender as it is about the positive impact you can and are prepared to bring to sport and society in general, simply as a human being.

My hope is that there will come a time, in the not too distant future, when we no longer have a need to organise "women's days".

More about the MESGO