The most popular and successful team in the NBA, along with the Boston Celtics, is led by a woman. She is also the current champion of the Champions League, since his executive director is the right hand of billionaire Roman Abramovich since he arrived at the club, until now that he is sold.
There are more and more women in administrative positions in the main sports leagues. And that includes the NFL, MLB and MLS as well. Many of them even add championships to their showcases during their tenure. Others are on the way.
At the start of Women’s Month, let’s take a look at some of the female bosses of the sport today.
Marina, Samoura and other women in football
The 47-year-old chief executive, Marina Granovskaia, has served as a right-hand man to Chelsea owner Abramovich, who announced on Wednesday that he would sell the club over its link to Vladimir Putin’s government.
The great influence of Granovskaia, who also has a Canadian passport, in the companies of the Russian billionaire, led her to become his official representative in 2010. She was promoted to her current position in 2014, and was a key player in the contract with the brand. Nike, which will earn them £900m when the deal ends in 2032.
Under Granovskaia’s tutelage, the club made its 11 biggest sales and 10 biggest acquisitions in its history. His biggest sale was Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, who put up some 100 million euros for the Belgian footballer.
Since 2013, the club has won the Premier League twice, an FA Cup, a Champions League and now the Club World Cup title. His future with the team is uncertain once Abramovich sells him in the coming weeks.
On the other hand, the Senegalese diplomat Fatma Samoura was the first woman to be elected FIFA Secretary General in 2016. Before her appointment, she worked at the United Nations (UN), leading several humanitarian programs. A few weeks ago, she was also appointed Senate of the FIA (International Automobile Federation) which oversees the management and finances of said entity.
For her part, Delia Smith, is a popular English cook and television presenter. She is also the person with the most shares in the Premier League team, Norwich City. Along with her husband, writer Michael Wynn-Jones, she has been involved with the Norfolk County club for more than two decades. Her traditional phrase “Football is about people; listen to them, value them and help them succeed”, has made them a fan favourite.
In 2019, the Mexican businesswoman and government official, Alejandra de la Vega, became the first female to acquire a first division team from Mexico. Four years earlier, she had taken over most of the shares in FC Juárez, and then bought the Lobos de Puebla to guarantee her place in the first division.
The President of Liga MX highlighted the evolution of the competition as a business for First Division clubs.
Also in 2019, coach Mariana Gutiérrez was named tournament director of the Liga MX Femenil. In 2021, businesswoman Julie Uhrman, as well as actress Natalie Portman and other celebrities, founded the NWSL’s Angel City FC.
Women in the MLB, NBA and NFL
One of the legacies left by Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, who led the Miami Marlins before resigning this week, was hiring Kim Ng as general manager in 2020. With the appointment, Ng became the first woman to to hold said position of GM in the MLB and also the first with Asian roots.
Ng has also served as senior vice president of Major League Baseball operations. She also as an assistant manager for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. The first woman in the United States to buy an MLB franchise was Joan Payson, who in 1957 was the co-founder and majority owner of the New York Mets.
Marge Schott, who later acquired the Cincinnati Reds in 1984, left in 1999 after making discriminatory comments. These facts earned him a two-year punishment in the MLB and her eventual departure.
Meanwhile, in the NBA offices, there are three women who have majority ownership of a team: Jeanie Buss (Los Angeles Lakers), Gayle Benson (New Orleans Pelicans) and Jody Allen (Portland Trail Blazers). Also Sheila Johnson, who was the first African-American woman to be the owner or partner of three professional sports franchises: Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Mystics (WNBA). In total, six women serve as presidents, chief operating officers or executive officers. There are also two general managers in the G-League.
Returning to the subject of Buss, the executive began her career at age 19 as general manager of the Los Angeles Strings professional tennis team, which belonged to her late father, Jerry Buss. When her father died in 2013, 66% of her shares passed to her and her five other children. In 2017, Jeanie fully took over the Lakers.
Benson, meanwhile, is the owner of the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA and New Orleans Saints in the NFL. She was the first holder of two franchises in the major sports leagues. She was later emulated by Allen, the sister of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who controls the Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and has stock in the Seattle Sounders. Benson and Allen are joined in the NFL: Sheila Ford-Hamp (Detroit Lions), Virginia Halas McCaskey (Chicago Bears) and Amy Adams Strunk (Tennessee Titans).
Georgia Frontiere was the NFL’s most prominent past owner, in a historically male-dominated league, when it owned the Los Angeles Rams and moved them to St. Louis, winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 1999 before it returned to The Angels; with the new administration they were champions of the last Super Bowl.
Finally, there are also other cases such as the former world champion and Olympic medalist in athletics Ana Guevara, director of the National Sports Commission in Mexico, and Sara Rosario, president of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee (Copur), who are the top leaders when making sports decisions for their respective countries.
They are the leaders of today, pioneers of the present and those who continue to open paths for future leaders.
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Jeanie Buss, Marina Granovskaia and the other bosses of the sport