Whilst we’re in the midst of the daily challenges being created by COVID-19, London FA thought it would be a great opportunity to share a good news story with you.
Over the last four years, London FA’s discipline team have been working hard, recruiting new and diverse independent panel members to join the existing cohort of London FA council members who sit on its discipline panels.
The voluntary role of independent panel members involves individuals from an array of backgrounds, siting on disciplinary panels, along with members of the London FA Council, to make decisions on football disciplinary cases. Some of these cases take place as personal hearings (whereby the individual charged gets the opportunity to come in front of a panel, and the panel ask questions of the accused and any witnesses, in order to make a decision on the case, which is decided on a balance of probability); or they take place as a non-personal (which is heard via correspondence).
As part of the Independent Panel Member recruitment campaign, not only have London FA been focusing on ensuring a greater BAME representation on their panels, it has also been making a concerted efforted to recruit more females onto their panels.
On the 13 March 2020, London FA held its routine weekly non-personals with our first-ever all-female discipline panel. Carl Long, London FA’s Investigations Officer, arranged the panel and acted as secretary, whilst independent members Anita Poulman (right) and Fiona Rudge (centre) were joined by London FA Council Member Louise Dorling (left), who was appointed as the Chair of the panel.
“Since I joined the London FA around a year and a half ago, I can already see the progress that we have made in diversifying the people that sit on our panels and it has been a privilege to be a part of this,” said Carl Long.
“Footballing organisations should reflect the people that they represent and, by moving away from traditional panels and stereotypes, should be something that we commit to and become a driving force to highlight that all aspects of football should be accessible to everyone. Being based in the capital gives us more opportunities to create a truly unique and diverse pool of people that are trained and capable to deliver a fair and just outcome on all matters, from discipline commissions to the day-to-day aspects of running the business. By highlighting the progress we have made by being able to have an all-female discipline panel, we set ourselves a new benchmark for ensuring that our panels represent the people we serve and we aim to use this to highlight that we can deliver on being a County FA that champions diversity, equality and inclusion as a core principle, not a novelty.”
Whilst the panel’s appointed Chair, Louise Dorling, is accustomed to being the first female to do many things in football, having being involved in the discipline process for so many years, this opportunity has been a real highlight for Louise.
“I must admit to being somewhat used to being a female-first in the world of football, still dominated by men,” said Louise. “I have now been involved in the footballing fraternity (a word I use advisedly) for over 40 years, having first been the Chair of a Youth League (and in those days Under-13s was the youngest age possible) in the 1970s. I then progressed to become League Secretary of a league involving men and boys. I was definitely one of the first females in that role, which involved dealing with everything to do with the administration of the league from fixtures, to cup competitions to results and disciplinary. The club secretaries, all males, had to deal with me on a daily basis and it took a lot of hard work and effort to prove I could do the job! I had to prove so much more than anyone previously in my role. I then kept this role for over 30 years and developed my skills which took me eventually into the London FA and their judicial procedures. I have been a qualified Chair (still one of only a few women) and secretary for several years and it is with great pleasure that today I chair an all-female panel.”
On being appointed to our first all-female panel, Anita Poulman shared her excitement, saying:
“It is hard to explain how thrilled I am to be part of the first all-female disciplinary panel for the London FA. I guess it is the third of my three big football firsts. The first was to receive recognition as the first female referee at a five-a-side tournament for a local children’s league. Demonstrating what a small world this is, I received that award from Louise who is the Chair of this all-female panel we are now celebrating. My second was to be the first female to chair the Maccabi Junior Football League – a role I held for three years until work travel forced me to step down. I am sure that this all female panel will be the first of many, and hopefully will encourage more ladies to get involved in developing the game we all love. Gender should never be a barrier to participation in any role and in any capacity – it has never stood in my way.”
Fiona Rudge also gave us an insight into why she decided to get involved as an Independent Panel Member.
“Whilst attending the Achieving Gender Equality in Sport for Women conference in London in 2018 I was blown away by one of the speakers, who had just been appointed a non-executive director of the London FA,” Fiona said. “She inspired me to apply for a position as an independent panel member of disciplinary hearings for the London FA. Whilst I have a keen interest in sports, both participation and spectating, this opportunity enables me to be involved in sport in a completely new way. I am able to use the skills I have learnt through education, training and within my current role as a solicitor relating to sports governing bodies, doping control, rules of sport & conduct and sports injuries. I really enjoy being part of the FA team and sitting on the panel assisting with upholding the rule of law, proper administration of justice whilst not allowing my independence to be compromised.”
Whilst London FA wants to ensure it has a diverse representation across all its panels, the fact that the opportunity to have an all-female panel has even arisen, shows just how far London FA has come over the last few years.
If you are interested in finding out more about the recruitment process for independent Panel Members, please click here