FA APPOINTS FIRST WOMAN CHAIR IN ITS 157-YEAR HISTORY, DEBBIE HEWITT TO TAKE CHARGE FROM JANUARY 2022

The English Football Association () is on course to create history as they appoint Debbie Hewitt as the first-ever female chair since its inception 157 years ago.

The FA, formed in 1863, has taken the decision to become more inclusive and set an example for the rest of the society. It launched the ‘Pursuit of Progress’ initiative in 2018 aimed at increasing diversity among players, officials, coaches  and leaders of English football.

 

 

Hewitt is expected to take charge from January 2022 after the appointment is formally ratified by the FA Council next month. It’s just a matter of time now that FA will have its first woman chair. The 41-year old businesswoman will take over the remains of his predecessor Greg Clarke, who was forced to resign after using racially offensive remarks for overseas players in English football in front of a parliamentary committee.

 

Former FA Chairman Greg Clarke

Former FA Chairman Greg Clarke. Image Source – Eurosport / Website

 

Debbie Hewitt was the unanimous choice of the seven-member selection panel to replace the outgoing Clarke.

 

WHO IS DEBBIE HEWITT?

The granddaughter of Dr. Vivian Brackstone MBE, Debbie Hewitt is a businesswoman by profession who started her career at Marks & Spencer as a management trainee and later joined Lex, where she was tasked to manage a Volvo dealership in Bristol. The employer Lex sponsored her MBA, which she completed part-time and received her degree in 1995.

After ten years of hard work and, she was appointed as the CEO of the Lex-owned RAC Limited. She became the non-executive chairman of financial services group BGL as well as Visa Europe and clothing line White Stuff.

 

Image Source – Times UK / Website

 

Hewitt received her MBE in 2011 for her services to business and public sector.

The to-be FA Chairperson is also on the board of directors of The Restaurant Group plc for the past six years, which owns the Wagamama and Frankie and Benny’s. Hewitt will step down from the position once taking on the her new role with the English football governing body.

 

IMMEDIATE CHALLENGES AWAIT!

The 41-year old has obstacles lined up ahead as she takes charge of the Football Association at one of the most challenging periods in its history. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced all sports governing bodies into losses and the FA has projected an estimated amount of £300m financial losses by 2024 and has already laid off 124 members of staff already.

Another booming challenge in English football is that of racism and although it has plagued the sport for a long time, the implications are far more visible after the sport decided to protest against the ill. Recently, at a warm-up friendly, the English fans booed their own team for taking a knee as a symbolic gesture to highlight racial injustice.

 

English players taking a knee

English players kneel down to protest systematic racism before their friendly against Croatia. Image Source – BBC / Website

 

Apart from this, the recent European Super League fiasco has shook the English football and it’s hierarchy to the core. The consequences of the failed breakaway league have made the governing body realise that the game is losing its essence and a review into the governance of football in England is being planned upon. It could lead to some drastic measures that will have to be implemented by the incumbent chairperson.

The former CEO of RAC is ready to take up the challenges and is confident of resolving each on of them with time.

“As the events in recent months have shown, this is a significant moment in time for English football, with a clear purpose for all stakeholders to secure the long-term health of the game at all levels,” said the incumbent FA chairperson Debbie Hewitt.

“I’m looking forward to working alongside our CEO, Mark Bullingham, and the team across Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, and relish the opportunity to chair an organisation that has the potential to be a very positive force for good throughout the game and across society,” she added.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE HISTORIC RECRUITMENT?

The news of Hewitt’s appointment has brought many positive remarks and hope for a better future of the English football governing body. “This is an excellent appointment for the FA and English football in general,” said Kate Tinsley, an independent non-executive director at the FA who led the appointment process.

“Debbie was the outstanding candidate from a talented and experienced field. She immediately demonstrated her passion and ability to positively influence the direction of the FA on a domestic and global stage, providing strong and principled leadership along the way,” she added.

 

FA logo

Image Source – The FA / Twitter

 

Debbie Hewitt will succeed the interim Chair Peter McCormick, who was appointed following Clarke’s resignation until the new appointment.

“Her experience across many different areas of business and general approach will allow her to work collaboratively across the game, while providing her own insight, experience and judgement on the issues that matter most,” McCormick said about his successor.

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