Commentary

Year of the woman, soccer champions Lynch, Allard and Dodd (and the '15ers)

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

By any measurement, 2015 was the Year of the Woman in soccer.

The USA not only regained the Women's World Cup title that had eluded it for 16 years, but the '15ers did so in the most spectacular manner possible, beating Japan, 5-2, in a game it led, 4-0, after 16 minutes before a crowd of 53,341 fans at Vancouver's B.C. Place and a record U.S. television audience of 26.7 million television viewers on Fox and Telemundo.

The international story of the year was the fall of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the corrupt empire he had overseen for 17 years. The woman who toppled FIFA was Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General. By the end of the year, Federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York, where Lynch previously served as U.S. attorney, had indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 39 soccer officials and sports marketing executives, 13 of them current or former members of FIFA's executive committee. The 10 who pleaded guilty all await sentencing but they have agreed to forfeit more than $198 million.

Marvel Comics, creator of super heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, immortalized Lynch as the FIFA Slayer, holding a soccer ball in one hand and a sword over her shoulder.

But Lynch was not the only woman to take on FIFA. Vanessa Allard, an attorney based in the Cayman Islands, compiled the report on UEFA president Michel Platini. The Frenchman's entourage tried to trash Allard, a member of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee, but Platini was ultimately suspended for eight years for taking a $2 million payment from FIFA in 2011.

There is great irony that FIFA has brought down by women. It was a staunchly male organization without a female on its executive committee until 2013 when Burundi Football Association President Lydia Nsekera was appointed. A second woman, Sonia Bien-Aime, the president of the Turks & Caicos Islands FA, was appointed to represent Concacaf in 2015, but that only followed the arrest of its president, Jeffrey Webb, in May.

We take women in positions of power within soccer for granted. Marty Mankamyer was elected the chairperson of U.S. Youth Soccer in 1984 and followed by Mavis Derflinger two years later. (Mankamyer later chaired the U.S. Olympic Committee.) Amanda Vandervort, MLS's director of social media, will be the NSCAA's fifth female president in 2016. Lynn Berling-Manuel, the former Soccer America publisher, is the NSCAA's CEO.

As FiveThirtyEight noted, women's soccer has more parity the higher you go up the American soccer ladder: 40 percent of FIFA-registered players, 47 percent of high school players and 53 percent of college soccer players are female, all a far cry from the representation in the rest of the world.

Former Australian international Moya Dodd is the third member of the current FIFA executive committee. You might not have heard of Dodd until FIFA Watchgate when it was revealed that Brazilian organizers put Parmigiani watches worth $26,600 in the gift bags of FIFA executive committee members attending the 2014 World Cup and just three members refused the gifts: U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, Prince Ali of Jordan and Dodd.

In a recent editorial in the New York Times, she laid out the lack of representation of women within FIFA:

"When FIFA’s Congress gathers in February, less than 1 percent of the voters will be female. National soccer boards have just 8 percent women. Players? An estimated 10 percent female. Coaches? Only 7 percent. How about the reform committee itself? One solitary woman on a committee of 13."

Dodd was co-opted, meaning she has no vote on the current FIFA executive committee, though she has become a powerful voice for reform within FIFA. Dodd was not on the ballot that was closed to candidates in October, but a case could be made that Dodd would be the best person to serve as the new FIFA president.
3 comments about "Year of the woman, soccer champions Lynch, Allard and Dodd (and the '15ers)".
  1. Steven Erickson, December 29, 2015 at 9:28 p.m.

    It is entirely Probable that FIFA would never have had all the problems had women been on it's boards, with full voting rights, many years ago.

  2. Allan Lindh, December 29, 2015 at 10:55 p.m.

    Long, long ago when we were all much younger, Mia Hamm was asked about her captain, Julie (Loudy) Foudy. Without batting an eye Mia responded that "we all assume she will be President some day." "Of USSoccer?" the reporter asked, "No, of the United States," Ms. Hamm responded. Maybe head of USSoccer would be a good start.

  3. Wooden Ships replied, December 29, 2015 at 11:21 p.m.

    Nice remembrance Allan. Jewels would have my vote, very smart, great speaker and probably would be as tenacious a President as she was a player. Maybe this article can start a movement.

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