UEFA Equal Game Conference takes place in London

Equal Game.jpeg

UEFA Equal Game Conference takes place in London

London's Wembley Stadium hosted the UEFA Equal Game Conference last week. The FAI's James Toner (back-row, second from left) attended the two-day event as a Youth Ambassador, and says the future of the game is in good hands for players of all abilities.
9th Apr 2019

Day 1:

The first day of the UEFA Equal Game Conference was a day packed with guest speakers and panel discussion groups throughout.

To start off the conference, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin began with a short speech around ‘the shame’ he feels around the existence of racism in football in 2019. He then spoke of how it is a constant aim for UEFA to continuously work to eradicate racism from the game. Ceferin highlighted how until football is a totally equal game worldwide, UEFA’s work will not be done.

From then on, the day as a while was split in to three main topics points which were:

  • Diversity in Football
  • Football for All
  • Women in Football

The first point of discussion was around Diversity as a whole and how it affects both Business and Football for the better.

The two speakers who spoke mainly around diversity in football were English FA Chairman Greg Clarke, and President and CEO of the Paradigm Forum Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jorden. A key aspect of both speakers talks revolved around the researched fact that where there is levels of diversity reaching 30% or higher with an organisation, it is proven that this organisation is more likely to work more efficiently and likely to be dynamic in idea and decision making.

A panel discussion then began which included guests Scott Brooks (Director of Research at Arizona State University), Michelle Moore (Leadership Consultant & Speaker) and Peter Odenwengie (ex-Nigerian International and former Premier League footballer) who again all spoke of the importance of diversity within teams in particular, and how it can have a positive effect on performance.

Women in football and the barriers they face was then discussed firstly by Honey Thalijeh (FIFA Corporate Communications Manager), who gave her view on the lack of Women in leadership roles in football and how this can be changed. This very interesting topic was then discussed in more depth with women who have been seen to against the trend and take up leadership based roles in Football. This led to an incredibly interesting panel discussion which included guests Klara Bjartmarz (General Secretary, Icelandic FA), Razvan Burleanu (Romanian Football Federation President), Anne Rei (General Secretary, Estonian FA) and Amaia Gorostiza (SD Eibar President).

The day concluded with Jack Rutter, a motivational speaker and former English CP team captain speaking about how CP Football made him feel included in Football again and ensured his mental health was in a positive state before an excellent Theatre Play ‘Offside’ was performed, with the theme being around the barriers Women in football face relating to the media, coaches and fans.

All in all Day 1 was an excellent insight into the barriers women face in Football, the importance of Football for All plays for those who participate and also the importance of diversity in football. These topics were all discussed by experts in their respective fields who not only spoke about the barriers they face but also the potential solutions to said barriers, which made for a day of constant learning for all of those who were in attendance.

Day 2:

The second day of the UEFA Equal Game Conference again was filled with very interesting guest speakers and panel discussions, with an added element of peer reviews brought in to the day’s functionality too.

The peer to peer discussions ran through numerous ‘Equal Game Cafes’ being discussed around tables with tea and coffee, where up to 21 different key talking topics could be discussed. Participants chose what topic they would like to discuss based on the title at any of the said tables.

This was an excellent initiative, with participants getting an opportunity to discuss whatever topic they found most interesting alongside peers who felt the same.

Key topics that were discussed varied around key themes such as Working with ethnic minority groups, Tackling Racism in Football, Refugees in Football, Football and Gender Equality, Diversity in Football and the LGBT+ community in Football

The day then concluded with a longer Panel Discussion with an incredible line up of guests taking part.

Jason Roberts (Ex-Premier League Footballer and Current Director of Development at CONCACAF), Bibiana Steinhaus (First Female Referee in German Bundesliga), Rachel Yankey (Ex-England Women’s International and current London Bees Head Coach), Yaya Toure and Roberto Martinez (Belgium Men’s Senior Manager) all sat on a discussion panel and gave an in depth, experience based description around Football and how Racism, LGBT+ and Gender Equality can be accepted across all levels of the game, in what everyone hopes will be a totally diverse and equal game in the coming years.

Seeing such high profile people, both female and male, talk about their experiences in the game and then further to this, discuss real solutions to how UEFA and the rest of the National Associations can tackle any problems they face was fascinating. Similarly, the panel highlighted just how much good work is being done across Europe and the World, which was a fantastic way to finish what was a very thought provoking and beneficial conference for anyone who was in attendance.