Lise Klaveness Aiming To Represent Women And Smaller Nations In UEFA ExCo Election
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Just a year after being elected as the first female President of the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF), former international striker, Lise Klaveness is attempting to become the first woman elected to the Executive Committee of the Union of European Football Associatons (UEFA) standing against men.

Klaveness is among eleven candidates attempting to secure one of seven positions onto the exclusive UEFA Executive Committee (ExCo) for a four-year term. The elections will be voted upon during the 47th UEFA Ordinary Congress in Lisbon on Wednesday which brings together the presidents and general secretaries representing each of the European governing body’s 55 member states.

Speaking to me about her candidacy, she told me that “it was a choice very much about wanting to represent smaller nations’ possibility to join all competitions in Europe, to represent the grassroots – the importance of the broad interest of football in the grassroots – to be a voice for the distribution of means now that the wealth gaps and the cost of living crisis in Europe is growing, then, of course, standing for equal opportunities for girls and boys, and men and women, is also a strong driving force.”

The UEFA ExCo is the governing body’s policy-maker, empowered to adopt regulations and make decisions on all matters which do not fall within the legal or statutory jurisdiction of the UEFA Congress or another organ. One of the positions is reserved for a female candidate but Klaveness opted out of standing against Welsh woman Laura McAllister, who will be elected unopposed, preferring instead to stand against ten men in the hope of doubling female representation on the committee.

“It was a difficult choice, but in the end very easy for me because I got no energy from trying to block the one other woman going into the election. It would be a lower threshold to go in, even though she is an excellent candidate, she is not a President (of a Football Association). I don’t like the system where you have the very few female representatives running against each other before the normal election.”

Just weeks after becoming the first female President in the 120-year history of the NFF, Klaveness came to international prominence at the 72nd FIFA Congress last March with her stirring speech aimed at the world governing body’s President Gianni Infantino. In a six-minute monologue, she called FIFA’s leadership to account for their refusal to compensate the families of the many migrant workers injured and killed constructing the stadiums used in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and for failing to guarantee legal safety for LGBTQ+ visitors to the tournament.

Yet, despite the notoriety this has imbued her with, Klaveness, a qualified attorney who has served as a deputy judge in Norway, emphasized to me that she is not merely a firebrand. “It’s important to be on the inside and not just
on the outside screaming in. I have lead men’s and women’s football in Norway for some years now. It’s real work, you have to negotiate with clubs, coaches – mostly men. For many years, I only have friends in football so, I’m not a person to throw grenades into systems. I want to cooperate, but I do think there’s some very urgent matters that we have to change.”

This week, FIFA once more failed to guarantee that the captains of the national teams competing at the Women’s World Cup this summer would be allowed to wear the anti-discrimination ‘One Love’ armband. Norway have been one of the countries who have continued to wear it during national team matches and Klaveness hopes there will be no repeat of the situation at the men’s World Cup where the England captain, Harry Kane was prevented from wearing it just hours before he was due to play.

She told me, “for now, we try to be in dialogue with FIFA. We have to avoid the situation where players are put on the spot as happened in Qatar, on the same day as England opened their World Cup, it was a catastrophe. Players should not be put in this position. I don’t think the women’s teams will put up with this, with very many female players coming from the gay community. This has to be solved.”

“I’m the first person to think we should not have the field politicized, it should be open for all. This OneLove armband with a rainbow has been used as a value statement by UEFA and FIFA for years, not a political statement. It’s in the FIFA statutes, we should be anti-racist, have equality of gender and equality of sexual orientation. When the going got tough, they prohibited it. That was a very big missed opportunity to implement their human rights policy. Hopefully we will not see that again in the summer.”

For now, Klaveness is focused on being elected on Wednesday and giving the UEFA ExCo two female voices for the very first time. “For the biggest sport in the world for women, it has taken one hundred years to have zero female FA Presidents elected and it’s taken one hundred years to have zero female Presidents even run for candidacy. Then you know it’s a systematic error and something we have to change. This is my contribution. For us, and me, it feels like a strong responsibility to run now, even if we are not elected, it’s the start of the next campaign.”

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