Marina Granovskaia, Russia
Chelsea FC Director
Marina Granovskaia may well lay claim to being the most powerful woman in sport, and yet we know so little about her. This is what we know for sure. The Russian-Canadian executive joined the Chelsea board in 2013 and has been mainly responsible for player transfers, a role which has seen her both praised, but more recently critcised, by the club’s fans. She has the final say on all transfer transactions and is known for her iron-like negotiation tactics. A central part of Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich’s vast business empire for over two decades, Granovskaia has been described as the most powerful individual at the club not named Abramovich. However, there are reports her influence is on the wane with the corridors of power at Chelsea beginning to question her judgement after appointing Maurizio Sarri. Still, the 44-year-old is the dealmaker for one of the biggest clubs in international sport and as long as Abramovich remains in London, so will she.
– She has been a trusted alley of Abramovich since joining his oil company Sibneft in 1997 before moving to London after he bought Chelsea six years later.
– The respected publication Forbes listed Granovskaia as the fifth most powerful women in international sports when they released their list in 2018.
– Granovskaia is credited with being the driving force behind the club’s massive Nike sponsorship deal which sees them net £60 million per year until 2032.
Did you know…
There is very little known of Granovskaia’s background but she does hold dual Canadian-Russian nationality and speaks both Russian and English.
“She is basically the power at Chelsea. Roman trusts her implicitly.” – A source talking to the London Evening Standard
Bibiana Steinhaus, Germany
If football has been traditionally known as a male dominated sport, then the world of football officiating has been REALLY male dominated. One of the names bucking that trend is Bibiana Steinhaus. The German referee was the first female of officiate in the Bundesliga when she took charge of Werder Bremen’s trip to Hertha Berlin in September 2017, the culmination of years of toil. Having initially taken the whistle in 1999, she has enjoyed almost two decades of progression within the game. From the lower echelons of German football, she has now taken charge of some of the biggest games on the planet. The road has not been easy. She has had to contend with outright sexism within the German game but has swept it aside with a steely professionalism and an element of cutting humour.
– Steinhaus is a trained police officer having risen to the rank of Chief Inspector.
– She became the first woman to officiate in men’s German professional football when she appeared in the 2. Bundesliga in 2007.
– She famously brushed aside Pep Guardiola during his time at Bayern Munich when he put his arm on her shoulder as she was fulfilling fourth official duties in a match against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Did you know…
Steinhaus has completed an impressive triple of refereeing the Women’s World Cup final, Olympic final, and Champions League final.
“It’s such a great honour to be the role model. The opportunities are there, the sport is there, the federation supports female officials in sport, you have every opportunity, go out there and grab it.” – Bibiana Steinhaus
Lydia Nsekera, Burundi
Member of the IOC and FIFA Council
The list of people who are members of both the FIFA Council and the International Olympic Committee is a short one. Just one person long, in fact: Lydia Nsekera. Her election to the FIFA Council – in 2013, she became the organisation’s first woman executive in its then-109-year-history – was a long time coming, as she’d been president of the Football Federation of Burundi for nine years before taking her spot in football’s overall governing body. Along with rescuing Burundian football from the shambolic state it was in at the time, she also spent her term as president advocating for the growth of women’s football in Africa, instituting grassroots development programmes and calling for more professional leagues to be formed. She’s been just as tireless in her role with the IOC, where she chairs the Women in Sport Commission, pushing for gender equality at all levels of sport. Nsekera’s unique position as a figure of authority for both the world’s biggest sport and global sport’s biggest event brings to mind the famous Spider-Man line. But the responsibility that comes with her power is one she’s bearing with grace and steely determination.
– In Forbes’ 2018 list of the most powerful women in international sport, Nsekera was ranked second.
– Nsekera won the IOC Women and Sport Award in 2009.
– She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of National Olympic Committees since 2014.
Did you know…
Burundi held its first women’s football championship under Nsekera’s watch during her tenure as FFB president.
“The secret of my success is simple. I work, I work and I work.” – Lydia Nsekera