At the 29th ECA General Assembly on 27-28 March 2023 in Budapest, Hungary, ECA Member Clubs unanimously approved major governance and membership reforms, including opening doors for women's football clubs as well as strengthening diversity and inclusion across the organisation.
It was a ground-breaking milestone in ECA’s journey towards inclusivity and diversity as the reforms not only emphasise more democracy, participation, diversity, and inclusion within the association but also recognise the pivotal role of women's football by integrating women's clubs into the membership structure for the first time.
Under the new reforms, ECA's Membership is set to expand significantly, growing from around 240 to over 330 full members, and the ECA Network will further expand to encompass a family of 500 men's and women's clubs.
Following the approval of the statutory changes at the 29th ECA General Assembly, ECA CEO Charlie Marshall remarked:
"The ECA Governance Reforms represent a hugely significant milestone in ECA’s development. This massive increase in clubs in the ECA family alongside progressive structural reforms, with important targeted diversity components, means we are becoming more representative, more inclusive and more efficient. As we look ahead to the next 15 years and beyond, we are evolving as an institution to ensure that we are able to continue serving and representing European clubs of all sizes.”
One of the key changes introduced by the reforms is the establishment of a dedicated pathway for clubs to qualify for full membership based on the performance of their women's teams. This move ensures that women's clubs are given significant opportunities to participate and contribute to ECA's decision-making processes.
Furthermore, the governance reforms will enhance diversity within the ECA's leadership structure. The number of eligible members for ECA Board seats will more than triple, with a particular emphasis on incorporating independent directors. In addition, each ECA subdivision will be required to have at least one female representative at the Board. To bolster the representation of women's clubs, dedicated Board seats exclusively for women's clubs will be created, providing a platform for their voices and perspectives to be heard at the highest level.
Lina Souloukou, AS Roma CEO and ECA Board Diversity Representative, highlighted the significance of these changes in promoting inclusivity and gender equality within the football industry. She stated:
"These reforms are a giant leap forward for women's club football in Europe and for women working in the game at the executive level. By opening doors to women's clubs and establishing dedicated Board seats, we are providing more opportunities to be part of decision-making processes and shaping the future of the sport."
"The inclusion of women's clubs as full members within ECA's membership structure is not only a testament to the remarkable growth and influence of women's football on the European landscape but also a crucial step towards ensuring good governance and progress within the association,” added Claire Bloomfield, ECA Head of Women's Football. “By embracing women's clubs and giving them a seat at the table, we are fostering an environment of equal representation and diversity, which is essential for driving the sport forward.”
As part of the association’s commitment to driving the future development of the women’s game, ECA is set to host its first ever ECA Women's Football Summit on 26-27 June 2023 in London. The event will bring together influential figures from the world of women's football to discuss best practices, explore growth opportunities, and strengthen the bonds between women's clubs across Europe.
“The upcoming ECA Women's Football Summit will provide a much-needed platform to celebrate the progress made thus far and engage key stakeholders in meaningful discussions about the future of women's football,” continued Claire Bloomfield. “It is a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, strategies, and insights that will further propel the development of the women's game and cement its rightful place within the football industry."