Moya Dodd, Australia
Executive committee member of the Asian Football Confederation
Simply playing football has never been enough for Dodd. A 24-cap international career with Australia, of which the first steps were taken when incessantly kicking the ball against the garage of her parents’ Adelaide home, has been parlayed into a prominent spell as a bureaucrat. As chair of the Asian Football Confederation women’s committee, she teamed up with Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein – a previous candidate for the FIFA presidency – to overturn the ban on the wearing of the hijab by female Muslim players. Dodd would also rise to one of the top spots at FIFA in 2013, being one of three women to serve on its Executive Committee. The 53-year-old’s controversial failure to be re-elected in 2017, missing out to Bangladesh’s Mahfuza Akhter Kiron who struggled to name the Women’s World Cup holders, has not tempered her involvement. Dodd now chairs Common Goal, a charity co-founded by Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata that encourages professional players and coaches to donate one per cent of their salaries to a collective fund.
– She featured in FIFA’s first-ever global tournament for women in 1988, coming on as a substitute when Australia beat Brazil.
– Dodd qualified as a lawyer during her playing days and is now a partner at Gilbert + Tobin, a Sydney-based firm that is renowned for its pro bono services.
– Age is no barrier for Dodd’s love of the game. She still plays in an over-35s competition in Australia.
Did you know…
Dodd told Forbes that she grew up as a huge Liverpool fan, staying up late into the night as a teenager to watch their matches on television in Australia and taking inspiration from Kevin Keegan.
“I grew up in Adelaide, Australia. My parents didn’t play, my grandparents didn’t play, and nobody in my family had any clue about football. Yet somehow it became the centre of my life. I played on the Australian national team. I was one of the first few women on the FIFA executive committee. I’ve had some strange and priceless adventures, both on and off the field.” – Moya Dodd (Source: The Players’ Tribune)
Instagram: Moya Dodd
Sarah Thomas, USA
Sarah Thomas didn’t set out to become a pioneer – in fact, her path to the NFL was born out of mild curiosity. One day, in her early 20s, she decided to tag along with her brother to an officiating seminar and quickly established herself as a youth league and high school referee. Though she had always been involved in sport – having earned a basketball scholarship at the University of Mobile in Alabama – there was no burning desire to reach the upper echelons of American football until catching the eye of a former NFL official, Gerald Austin, in 2006. From there she was worked into the college football rotation and it was in 2015 that the NFL appointed Thomas as the first permanent female official in league history. It had only taken them 95 years.
– Thomas broke new ground last season when she became the first woman to be assigned as an on-field official for a playoff game, in the New England Patriots’ victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
– The 46-year-old still holds down a day job as a pharmaceutical sales representative, as most officiating positions in the NFL are not full-time posts.
– It is not just in the NFL that Thomas has made her presence felt. Her college milestones include officiating a Bowl game between Marshall and Ohio in 2009, and her first Big Ten game, Northwestern hosting Rice, two years later.
Did you know…
Thomas broke her wrist while officiating a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings as a line judge in 2016. She was driven into the ground after a receiver made accidental contact on the sidelines, but she returned after a brief evaluation under concussion protocol to finish the game.
“When you’re out there officiating, the guys don’t think of me as a female. I mean, they want me to be just like them — just be an official — and that’s what I’ve always set out to do.” – Sarah Thomas
Gayle Benson, USA
Principal owner of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans
When it comes to professional sport in New Orleans, the Benson family name has become synonymous. Patriarch Tom became owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints in 1985 and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans in 2012, leading them both until his death in March 2018. Despite a multi-year dispute with his daughter and grandchildren over control of family assets, third wife Gayle was cleared upon his passing to become the first woman to be the majority shareholder of the voting stock in both an NFL and NBA franchise. Benson did not hide in the background during her first year in charge, making the rare pronouncement for an NFL owner to “aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies” after the infamous failure to issue an obvious pass interference penalty against Los Angeles Rams that helped set-up a painful overtime win in January’s NFC championship game. Saints had last reached that stage in 2009/10, showing the extent of her impact.
– In the Forbes 400 ranking of the wealthiest Americans, Benson was placed 298th with a net worth of $2.9 billion.
– Gayle and Tom married in October 2004.
– The 72-year-old is one of four women listed as primary owners of NBA franchises and one of four who are controlling owners of NFL franchises. No other women has both.
Did you know…
She and Tom Benson had their first date at a VooDoo arena football game on Mother’s Day in 2004.
“As we embark on an exciting offseason, we will take these valuable memories with us as we continue to compete at the highest level on the field and provide our fans the best game day experience in the NFL off the field.” – Gayle Benson (Source: New Orleans Saints end-of-season letter)