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Reporter Notebook: Lise Klaveness aiming to win seat on UEFA executive committee and drive change in football

Sky Sports senior reporter Tim Thornton speaks to Lise Klaveness, the president of the Norway Football Federation, who is attempting to win a seat on the UEFA executive committee; Klaveness wants transparency over decision-making at the elite level and to grow the women's game

Reporter Notebook: Lise Klaveness
Image: Lise Klaveness gave a powerful speech at FIFA's Congress in March 2022, criticising the governing body for staging the World Cup in Qatar, and the host country for its record on migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community

Lise Klaveness is the president of the Norway Football Federation who is bidding to drive change and create more balanced leadership at the head of UEFA.

I spent an afternoon in her company at Oslo's Ullevaal Stadium. A lawyer and former national team player, she is attempting to win a seat on the UEFA executive committee, and even though the odds are stacked against her, she's ready to meet the challenge head-on.

She has decided not to contest the quota seat for women. Instead, in the election next month, Klaveness will stand against male administrators, and if she is successful she will double the proportion of women on the committee, sitting alongside Laura McAllister from Wales. The committee currently consists of 19 men and one woman.

It says a lot about her character that she has chosen the more difficult route. It means her chances of success are reduced, but she has already shown she is prepared to put her head above the parapet.

In March last year, she made a powerful speech at FIFA's Congress in Doha when she criticised FIFA for staging the World Cup in Qatar, and the host country for its record on migrant workers and the LGBTQ+ community.

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It was only a few weeks after her election, and it came with a lot of risk. But she admits it was a special moment.

"That was a job my members had asked me to do," she told Sky Sports. "Norwegian Congress asked the president of Norway to do this, to criticise the award of the World Cup to Qatar and for how FIFA had handled it.

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"I will never forget it. And I did not have any consciousness of the world outside. It was more than enough just to stay focused on the message."

Klaveness has emerged as one of the most senior and influential women in the game. She is passionate about having a system that allows both men and women to flourish.

"I feel a responsibility and it's also a motivation. But I don't want to be a troublemaker. I work with so many great men and I know how important relations are in our business. But I have decided that I will not pull up the ladder.

"I was the first woman to come into the men's game. And I was the first female technical director and now the president. I've never been in any groups with men pushing me down so that's why I'm sure it's the system."

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A consistent theme in our discussion is how she wants to grow the women's game, but not by pushing down the men's.

She believes the two games can become more equal, but it is a challenge to balance what she describes as the "billionaire market on the men's side and the smaller market on the women's side".

FIFA president Gianni Infantino declared last week he has targeted equal pay for the men's and women's World Cup by 2027, and Klaveness agrees it should be a long-term objective.

"If it can be equal in the future it is a philosophy we should have, that we can acknowledge your son and daughter at the same level."

A key element of her candidacy is promoting transparency at the elite level of decision-making. She is also passionate about preserving the European football model, grassroots participation and ensuring that football is for everyone.

"I do think it's very important going ahead that we lift open discussion and transparency to a higher level in football. It's too shut and it's difficult to see the decision process. I will challenge that in a constructive way by talking about it myself. I do think transparency drives behaviour."

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Klaveness, who is gay, has also praised Blackpool forward Jake Daniels who became the first active gay male professional footballer in the UK last year when he made the decision to come out in a Sky Sports interview.

"It was very important. Hopefully he had good experiences and he can tell people that, and show that the world was ready to hear this.

"It has been a bit of a frustration for all of us that are in leadership positions that we haven't had anyone coming out, not that there should be any pressure, but we know they are there. He did a very important job and hopefully we will take the intensity down a bit."

Klaveness is candid and passionate throughout our interview about making positive change.

Her next challenge is to get elected on to the UEFA executive committee at their annual meeting in Lisbon on April 5.

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