You know the saying, "It's now or never"? That is how I feel about FIFA in its fight to reform. In my continued effort to spit in the wind about FIFA (next I will start yelling, and no one wants that), I write another Dear FIFA letter. Yes, that means another FIFA Reform Committee meeting is around the corner -- kicking off Thursday. Francois Carrard, leader of this important Reform Committee, will be finalizing recommendations to FIFA. I want him to hear this message above the noise.
I know you have a lot on your plate. I know you are in the midst of a crisis. But I also know crisis can bring transformation, and god knows, FIFA needs a whole lot of transformation. So while you are transforming, I implore you to put this thought front and center to help the process: That other half of the population that FIFA has not given much thought about -- yes, the girls and women -- how about giving them a chance?
To date, FIFA has clearly done them a disservice. Moya Dodd, one of only three women on the FIFA executive committee and chair of the Women's Football Task Force, sent you a powerful, important proposal recently on this very topic. FIFA has existed for 111 years, and it still discriminates against women. I am not talking pockets of discrimination against women; I am talking widespread discrimination at all levels. The statistics Dodd references regarding FIFA and its member associations (each country's soccer federation) are staggering:
*"Barely 40 percent of FIFA's member associations offer girls grassroots programs," the document says. That limits access to the sport for so many.
*Three out of 26 FIFA executive committee members are women -- and they were appointed recently.
*Only two out of 209 federation presidents are women.
*Only 8 percent of board members on national soccer bodies are women, and there are only eight women in total on confederation boards.
How about starting with giving women a seat at the table? Dr. Carrard, you know as well as anyone that when you give women a seat at the table, businesses, communities, corporations, schools -- you name it -- all prosper.
Here is some global research that further proves this point. This gender diversity study found that in more volatile times, women on boards and in organizations bring stability (know of an organization going through a volatile time right now, Dr. Carrard?). Most interesting, as Dodd pointed out in her proposal, at least one study also showed giving women a seat at the table decreases the likelihood of fraud.
Not surprisingly, diverse groups are more profitable, more successful and more efficient. Why? Diverse groups make better decisions. Diverse groups are more broadly informed. Diverse groups benefit from more perspectives and more ideas. Diverse groups are more innovative. You get it, as does newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. When asked recently why he made his cabinet gender-equal, Trudeau responded, "because it's 2015."
While you are busy reforming, Dr. Carrard, take a moment to think about all the young girls out there who would love a chance to play the world's most loved game. Think about all the girls who are told girls shouldn't play or, even worse, can't play. Think about how giving a girl an opportunity to play not only changes that girl's life, but also positively transforms a community. Think about how a little investment in women's soccer can certainly go a long way if you just give a girl a chance. Think about how FIFA can finally make soccer "Everywhere and for all," as your mission statement so proudly (and, frankly, falsely) claims.
Lastly, think about this: FIFA has the chance to finally fix this most profound gender discrimination in soccer. As Dodd so aptly stated: "Addressing gender imbalance is a visible and convincing means to demonstrate that this Reform Committee, FIFA and football are prepared to lead, rather than lag, society."
Choose to lead. Choose inclusion and progress. Choose it now. You don't get many opportunities to right a wrong in life. Instead of "it's now or never," make it "now and forever."
The goal is not just to reform but also to transform. No pressure, but the world is counting on you.
Yours in growing the game everywhere and for all,