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The new secretary general of FIFA and prospective mayor of Manchester have put grassroots football development at the heart of their pitches during keynote addresses at this year’s Soccerex Global Convention.

Fatma Samoura – who was hired as the first women and African to the post at the world football governing body in June – said that among the bad “cultural and institutional behaviours” present at FIFA was the neglect of football development at grassroots level, and failure to put women’s football “at the centre of the game”.

Using her first address since her appointment, the former United Nations veteran of 21 years said grassroots football would be a priority, and would go towards ensuring FIFA had the “highest standards” of governance and accountability.

Samoura also reiterated FIFA’s strong stance on discrimination. In a speech before her keynote, Labour MP and mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham criticised the body for “dismantling” its anti-discrimination taskforce.

However, the secretary general said it had been disbanded because it had "fulfilled its mandate", with work leading to a “strong programme” of action on discrimination in football.

Burnham also used his talk to champion grassroots football, and to put pressure on Premier League football clubs to distribute a fair amount of their revenues to community football clubs and facilities.

He said that while the league had made an original commitment to trickle five per cent of its revenue down to grassroots clubs, there were “questions about whether they are keeping their commitment”. Burnham added that he’d be “challenging them to do that”.

The Premier League recently signed a record-breaking £5.1bn (US$6.6bn, €5.9bn) domestic telelvision deal with Sky and BT Sport, and as part of the government’s Sporting Future strategy the league has made the pledge to at least double its contribution.

The former Labour leadership candidate also mooted the idea of implementing quotas for homegrown English players, and said it was a debate that needed to be had following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“Can you have the best league in the world and best national team in the world?” he mused.

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The new secretary general of FIFA and prospective mayor of Manchester have put grassroots football development at the heart of their pitches during keynote addresses at this year’s Soccerex Global Convention.
Samoura – the new FIFA secretary general – gave her first official address since her appointment


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