England’s Hewitt steps into FIFA Council role with promise to be more than a silent observer

By Samindra Kunti in Lisbon

April 6 – England once again has a representative on the FIFA Council, football’s top table, after FA president Debbie Hewitt was elected as the British vice-president. Hewitt is the first female vice president in FIFA’s history. 

She defeated the incumbent David Martin of Northern Ireland by 39 votes to 16, signalling England’s return to the FIFA Council after Greg Clarke quit in 2019. Hewitt, FA president since 2021, said that she sees herself as a representative of UEFA on the FIFA Council first and foremost.

“I have spent a fair bit of time with the 54 UEFA associations in getting here, but it is quite important that I understand there are another 150 represented on FIFA,” said Hewitt. “Then I think I can get a sense of what the priorities are because there is a danger from the outside that you make those conclusions before you have actually become part of it.”

Hewitt developed a strong relationship with Lise Klaveness after the Norwegian’s memorable speech at the Congress in Doha last year, but Klaveness did not get enough votes to get a seat on the executive committee. In fact, she finished second last.

“I think she’s a very brave woman,” said Hewitt. “I think she’s a very smart woman. And I think that she has the ability to listen, to learn, to influence. She’s a professional footballer, she’s a lawyer, what’s not to like?”

Asked why it is so difficult for women to get executive roles in football, Hewitt said: “I’ve never come at it from (the position of) ‘I’m a woman in a man’s world’. I come at it from the fact that I’m a business person. I understand business and the way that business works, and a certain amount of football is about similar sorts of things as you face in business.”

Her new role comes with a generous $300,000 and other FIFA perks. “I think it’s fair to say, my predecessors have all taken the salary. It’s a big job. You can bet that I will give it my heart and my soul and whatever the compensation and remuneration is, I will talk to FIFA when I understand what that is and what the whole package is.”

Hewitt does not want to be a mere observer in the FIFA Council, a body that is known for simply rubber-stamping prior decisions. This was recently illustrated when FIFA awarded the Club World Cup to Saudi Arabia. There was no debate in the Council which simply accepted the controversial host award.

“I’m not known for being a silent observer,” said Hewitt. “I listen too – it’s really important to listen too.”

“I want to work out my priorities. I want to do the job really well. And I think then, once you do a job well, you’ve got more options. And I don’t think about those options until I’ve done a job really well.”

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