Europe's female representative presses FIFA on disparities

Evelina Christillin a new elected FIFA council member speaks during the vote for the new UEFA president in Athens, on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. European soccer federations will elect Wednesday a new UEFA president to replace Michel Platini, who is serving a four-year ban from the sport. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece — Europe's female representative on FIFA's ruling council is determined to narrow the financial disparities between the men's and women's game, and she also wants to eradicate a "stupid cliche" about women in the sport.

Evelina Christillin, a veteran Italian sports executive who worked on Turin's 2006 Olympic bid before being a top official on the Winter Games, was elected unopposed on Wednesday by the UEFA Congress. She takes up one of six new guaranteed FIFA leadership roles for women in a drive for greater gender equality in the male-dominated sport.

"I think female football is a wonderful sport," Christillin said after the congress of European soccer's governing body. "They are wonderful athletes and so they have to be respected and possibly paid not as much as men but at least recognized, honored and praised."

While FIFA gave out $576 million in prize money at the last men's World Cup in 2014, including $35 million for champion Germany, the global governing body awarded only $15 million at last year's Women's World Cup, with $2 million going to the champion United States.

"We have to work to improve and to boost these conditions both financially and sporting (for women)," Christillin said. "The same prize (money) would be difficult at the very beginning but little by little I think that this can be."

Asked about changing women's football, Christillin said: "It's very important because I hate this stupid cliche about women looking like false men playing football."

Christillin will arrive at her first FIFA Council meeting next month as an outsider, saying it will be her first visit to Zurich where the organization is based.

"You don't have to scream or beat your hands on the table to make yourself heard and understood," she said. "If you show yourself capable and let's say, not with authority, but with capability and sometimes with a smile (it) is not difficult."

The largesse around FIFA sits uncomfortably with Christillin.

"I think many things have to be changed in terms of a moral way of living, less money for the executives, more money for building facilities and restructuring the ones deserving it," she said. "It has to be a little rebranded and reshaped the world of football without corruption, without money wasted, without privileges."

That includes the $300,000 paid annually to FIFA Council members for the part-time role.

"There is no reason why earning such an amount of money for doing a representative job," Christillin said. "We should be honored by having the responsibility and the task of representing sport."

At the UEFA Congress, Christillin held talks with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, whose leadership style and decision-making has faced criticism in his first seven months in power.

"I know he had a lot of difficulties in the beginning," Christillin said. "It's very difficult to change because the resistance of the predecessor is very hard to fight ... (Infantino) had problems with the press, the old guard.

"He is trying to diminish very much what Blatter did and the previous administration was earning or getting ... he is very convinced that so many privileges in terms of financial (costs) — super hotels, super first-class trips and so on have to be canceled. And if this does not happen I will fight for that."

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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