McAllister writes manifesto in bid for seat on FIFA Council

GENEVA (AP) — In a rare move for a candidate running for election to the FIFA Council, Laura McAllister has written a manifesto.

The eight-page document, which was sent Thursday to all 55 European member federations, details her long career in soccer and spells out why she thinks she deserves a seat at the sport’s most powerful decision-making table.

“I’ve played at every level,” McAllister told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “And I’ve put my money where my mouth is in terms of working hard to develop the sport in every environment I’ve been in.”

Each of the six continental federations choose a female delegate to sit on the 37-member FIFA Council. UEFA will make its decision on April 20, with McAllister running against incumbent Evelina Christillin of Italy.

As a former international player and captain of Wales’ national team, and now an official in its national federation, McAllister’s profile is matched by only four other council members.

An extra qualification is her day job as a university professor specializing in good governance — always a relevant issue in FIFA and soccer politics.

“I think that’s quite a nice mix,” McAllister said. “I think it will give me some credibility, too.”

Credibility has been an issue in the past. In 2017, the Asian seat was won by a candidate who took three attempts to answer a BBC reporter’s question to identify the United States as the Women’s World Cup champion, despite having been on the FIFA committee that oversaw the 2015 tournament in Canada.

In facing Christillin, a well-connected official who already has the seat, McAllister is facing a tough task.

“I’m under no illusions trying to unseat an incumbent from a big football nation is not easy,” McAllister said.

McAllister was denied in the previous election contest in 2016. Her entry was blocked by rules then in place limiting the four British federations to their traditional FIFA vice presidency, which only men have held.

Now McAllister is clear to face the former Italian national team skier whose career biography on the FIFA website has no soccer positions. Christillin, however, has close ties to the family that owns Juventus. The head of that family, Andrea Agnelli, sits on the UEFA executive committee and is the leader of the European Club Association.

Both candidates have teaching and Olympic experience — Christillin as an executive during the 2006 Turin Games, McAllister at the UK Sport funding body — though only the Welshwoman has deep roots in soccer.

As a member of the UEFA women’s soccer committee, she had input into the group’s strategic vision, and has been impressed by FIFA’s version.

“I think FIFA has really put its heart and soul into ensuring this strategy makes a difference,” she said.

McAllister hopes those programs will help more women toward the goal of coaching men’s professional teams.

Beyond the women’s game, McAllister pledged to help soccer bodies protect players, coaches and referees from racism and online abuse, including by unmasking and identifying the perpetrators.

“That might not be a great vote-winner on the surface,” she said. “When you talk to individual nations about why that’s important, they buy into it very quickly.”

After dozens of campaign calls online, election day for UEFA might yet be a face-to-face meeting in Montreux, Switzerland.

Of her talks with FIFA president Gianni Infantino and UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, McAllister believes “both of them recognize that they need people, but they need women particularly, who can speak and communicate some of the values and the ambitions that they have for the game.”

“And,” McAllister said, “I think that I fit into that category.”

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