English football picks first female leader in body's 158-year history

Hewitt joins at a key time as the FA considers a bid for the 2030 World Cup.

June 8, 2021, 7:54 AM

LONDON -- The English Football Association, soccer’s original national body that was founded in 1863, has nominated Debbie Hewitt to become its first ever female leader.

Hewitt was the unanimous choice of the seven-member selection panel and the FA Council will be asked to formally ratify Hewitt as the new Chair at its next meeting on July 22. If approved, she will begin her new role in January 2022 and Interim Chair Peter McCormick will remain in position until that time, according to the FA.

“The panel were in full agreement that she has the outstanding Chair and governance expertise, across an extensive range of business sectors, as well as the proven leadership qualities and character required for the role,” the FA said in a statement announcing her nomination. “Debbie has an extensive non-executive career spanning over 15 years in Listed, Private Equity backed and privately-owned companies, across many different sectors.”

Hewitt is currently the non-executive Chair of Visa Europe, The Restaurant Group plc, BGL Group and White Stuff and has previously held non-executive Chair roles at Moss Bros plc, Evander Group, HR Owen plc and the HPI Group.

Hewitt was even awarded an MBE – which stands for Member of the British Empire – in 2011 for her services to business and the public sector. An MBE is one of the United Kingdom’s highest awards for contributions to either the arts and sciences, working with charitable and welfare organizations, or public service and contributions outside of the civil service.

“I'm delighted to be nominated for the role of Non-Executive Chair of The Football Association," Hewitt said in a statement. "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.”

Debbie Hewitt MBE will begin the new role in January 2022, subject to ratification from FA Council
The FA

Hewitt will be joining at a critical time for the FA as the body is considering a bid to host the 2030 World Cup in a joint bid with the rest of the United Kingdom as well as Ireland.

“I’ve been passionate about football from a very young age and I’m excited by the opportunity to play my part in shaping the future of something that means so much to so many,” Hewitt continued. "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."

Hewitt will be the permanent successor to Greg Clarke who resigned from the role in November 2020 after making inappropriate comments about black and gay people in front of a British parliamentary committee.

"This is an excellent appointment for the FA and English football in general.” Said Kate Tinsley, Independent Non-Executive FA Director and chair of the selection panel. "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."

Said Interim Chair McCormick: "We're delighted to nominate Debbie as our new Chair. 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. I very much look forward to working with her."

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