Debbie Hewitt has been hailed by Gary Neville as an “outstanding appointment” following the Football Association’s announcement that she is set to become its first chairwoman.
The governing body announced on Tuesday that Hewitt had received a unanimous nomination from the FA Board to take up the role of chair.
Former England and Manchester United defender Neville wrote on Twitter: “This is an outstanding appointment. The FA have a chance to modernise here if they allow Debbie to do her work!”
Hewitt, whose appointment as the first female chair in the FA’s 157-year history is subject to ratification by the FA Council, is set to succeed the interim FA chair, Peter McCormick, from January 2022.
She will be a permanent successor to Greg Clarke, who resigned last November after making a series of offensive remarks during an appearance before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.
Women in Football congratulated Hewitt, saying in a statement on Twitter: “Congratulations to new @FA Chair Debbie Hewitt MBE. We wish you every success in your new role.”
Meanwhile, sports minister Nigel Huddleston tweeted: “Congratulations on the new role as @FA Chair Debbie Hewitt. I’m looking forward to working with you.”
A seven-member selection panel led by independent non-executive FA director Kate Tinsley picked Hewitt after considering her extensive non-executive career spanning over 15 years in listed, private equity-backed and privately owned companies, across many different sectors.
“The panel were in full agreement that she has the outstanding chair and governance expertise, across an extensive range of business sectors, as well as the proven leadership qualities and character required for the role,” said an FA statement.
Hewitt is currently the non-executive chair of Visa Europe, The Restaurant Group plc, BGL Group and White Stuff.
She will step down from The Restaurant Group, which includes chains such as Wagamama and Frankie and Benny’s, after six years in the role when she joins the FA in January.
“I’m delighted to be nominated for the role of non-executive chair of The Football Association,” said Hewitt, who was awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to business and the public sector.
“As the events in recent months have shown, this is a significant moment in time for English football, with a clear purpose for all stakeholders to secure the long-term health of the game at all levels.
“I’ve been passionate about football from a very young age and I’m excited by the opportunity to play my part in shaping the future of something that means so much to so many.
“I’m looking forward to working alongside our CEO Mark Bullingham and the team across Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park, and relish the opportunity to chair an organisation that has the potential to be a very positive force for good throughout the game and across society.”
The FA Council will be asked to formally ratify the appointment at its next meeting on July 22.
“This is an excellent appointment for the FA and English football in general,” said Tinsley. “Debbie was the outstanding candidate from a talented and experienced field.
“She immediately demonstrated her passion and ability to positively influence the direction of the FA on a domestic and global stage, providing strong and principled leadership along the way.”