The Football Association has appointed the first female chair in its 157-year history, with the business executive Debbie Hewitt expected to take up the position in January.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the FA Council next month, but if the formalities are completed Hewitt will become the permanent successor to Greg Clarke, who resigned after making racially offensive remarks in front of a parliamentary committee.
Hewitt has an extensive background in business that suggests a more polished approach to high-profile positions representing her employer. She is a former chief executive of RAC and the current nonexecutive chair at Visa Europe, the clothing brand White Stuff and the financial services group BGL, which owns price comparison site Compare The Market.
Hewitt has also spent six years on the board of The Restaurant Group plc, which owns Wagamama and Frankie and Benny’s. She will step down from that role on taking up her FA position.
“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,” said Hewitt, who was awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to business and the public sector.
Hewitt will take charge of English football’s governing body at one of the most precarious financial moments in its history. The FA has projected estimated financial losses from Covid-19 to reach £300m by 2024 and has laid off 124 members of staff.
She also arrives at a time of turbulence, not only because of Covid. The consequences of the failed European Super League have caused ructions across the game and the government is conducting a review into the governance of football in England, which could lead to the introduction of an independent regulator.
“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,” said Hewitt.
“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.”
Kate Tinsley, an independent non-executive director at the FA who led the appointment process said: “This is an excellent appointment for the FA and English football in general.
“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.”