Former Wimbledon junior champion, London 2012 Director of Sport, Chief Executive of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Vice-Chair on the Board of Sport England and current Independent Non-Executive Director at the EFL – Debbie Jevans undoubtedly has an impressive CV.
As a professional tennis player, Jevans played in 10 Grand Slam singles tournaments between 1979 and 1983, and reached the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 1978.
As her tennis career came to an end, Jevans was attracted to the world of sports administration, quickly rising to position of Director of the Women’s Game and then General Secretary at the International Tennis Federation by her mid-twenties, working on projects such as reintroducing tennis as an Olympic sport.
Jevans attributes the influence of former tennis player and President of the French Tennis Federation and International Tennis Federation, Philippe Chatrier, as instrumental in the success and progress of her early career.
“Philippe was a mentor, supporter and a guiding light for me. He taught me that those who lead must support others and I’ve taken that mantra with me right throughout my career,” explained Jevans.
After setting up her own consultancy firm and working with the International Rugby Board, International Cricket Council and UK Sport, Jevans became the first woman in Olympic history to be appointed Director of Sport for an Olympic Games Organising Committee, being responsible for delivering the sport for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Jevans has always been an advocate of women breaking the glass ceiling in sports administration, adding: “I’m proud to say that 50 per cent of my sport managers at London 2012 were women and I’ve always supported women being on Boards. I strongly believe that a diverse Board leads to better decision making and a much better utilisation of the talent pool. Why would you exclude 50 per cent of the population?
“Of course there is still more to be done in this area, women still need to be represented more at a senior level in sports organisations but I do believe, due to the introduction of a governance code and strong leadership within sport, sports administration is changing. My frustration is that we are still having the same conversation in 2018 that we were having in 1990.
“Personally when I first started my career, I didn’t find it easy being one of the only women at a senior level within a sports organisation. However, it was something I became more comfortable with albeit not accepting of.”
Jevans was appointed as a Non-Executive Director of the EFL in 2014, a position which allows her to input her expertise into the long-term EFL strategy and the decision making process that follows. During her time on the Board, Jevans has seen the EFL evolve and grow in stature both at home and abroad, with improved profile of all EFL competitions, record attendances, increased sponsorship revenue and the development of a groundbreaking new digital offering.
Jevans has worked with younger women working within or looking to work within sporting organisations. “You have to trust yourself and back yourself, confidence is key and don’t be put off by thinking a question is too small, or be afraid of informing others of progress you have made or ideas you may have. Women are often reticent about putting themselves forward. Within football I would love to see more women involved in coaching and officiating as well as playing the sport.”
When asked what she is most proud of, Jevans responded that she’s most proud of the success of the people she’s worked with in her career.
“I’m still in touch with all the teams I’ve worked with along this journey, they’ve been hugely successful from working at the Academy at Manchester City, to overseeing Spurs’ move to Wembley Stadium, running major cricket clubs to working at a senior level at the IOC – their success is inspiring to me.”
Read this week's other inspirational stories from women in football below:
Fleur Robinson - Burton Albion
Vicky Smith - PGMOL
Shelley Strange - Reading