Laura McAllister on FIFA Council candidacy, player abuse and diversity in football

Former Wales footballer Professor Laura McAllister has said there is an "appetite for change" following what she described as "scandalous" online abuse of footballers.

She shared her thoughts on several issues within the sport ahead of her bid to become UEFA's female representative on the FIFA Council.

If McAllister wins the vote on Tuesday, she will become the first British woman at world football's top table, and one of a handful of women holding influential positions inside FIFA.

The academic has won 24 caps for Wales and served as team captain.

McAllister won 24 caps for Wales and served as team captain.

McAllister said eliminating abuse towards footballers is a key manifesto commitment.

"We can't continue with the scandalous abuse that black players have received on social media.

"If we can contribute towards the education of fans and supporters, and really try to eliminate some of the absolutely dreadful abuse that not just black players, but female and gay players have received in recent times, then I think that will be a really vital and valuable contribution."

Last week, Swansea City carried out a week-long boycott of social media after several of its players received online abuse.

The footballers join a growing list of black players who have been subjected to online abuse in recent weeks.

Arsenal's former France forward Thierry Henry has described racism on social media as "too toxic to ignore" and disabled all of his accounts following recent instances on the platform.

Swansea manager Steve Cooper said his team had "had enough" of racial abuse on social media.

The former international footballer, who is now an academic at Cardiff University, added that the "lack of representation" in football is "scandalous".

"We need to listen to different voices and it's not just about gender and sex, it's also about ethnic background.

"It's really scandalous that we don't have good representation of black people, given the number of black players we have in football, and that's got to change."

Discussing the future of football, McAllister also said she could envisage a ban on headers in football.

"Personally, I would never rule it out, although culturally it's hard to imagine a game of football without heading the ball because it has implications for other aspects of the game.

"There's a lot of issues to consider once we've got the range of evidence we need to make decisions on that."

She also shared her hopes of eradicating the potential for corruption.

"I think any organisation that is wealthy, that has lots and lots of money, is bound to be vulnerable to issues of poor governance and corruption.

"But I think with the right leadership and the right people around the board - and that's where diversity and knowledge comes in - I think we can hopefully move the governance of football to a new level and a level which compels people to look at the game in a different light."