Sunday 08 March 2020, 10:25

Barbuto: Women make just as good leaders as men

  • The first woman to be elected president of a professional club in Argentina

  • Has held management positions at Club Atletico Banfield for more than 15 years

  • Headed up Argentinian delegation at FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™

In her younger years, the football-loving Lucia Barbuto often had to field questions from members of the opposite sex, who doubted the fact that a female could possibly know anything about the game. “Oh really?” they would say. “Then explain the offside rule to us. Tell us who wears the No9 jersey for Boca Juniors or the No5 for River.”

“To begin with I’d take the time to answer, just to show them that I knew,” said Barbuto, the only female president of an Argentinian first division club, in conversation with

“But I grew tired of it,” she added. “If I couldn’t test their knowledge, then why could they test mine? They should be sitting there now, thinking: ‘That girl was right. She did know about football’. It doesn’t happen to me now. Either they gave up with me or they just don’t do it to women anymore. I hope so anyway.”


Now 34 and a qualified obstetrician, Barbuto has been running Club Atletico Banfield since October 2018, when she became only the second woman to be appointed the president of a professional club in her country and the first to do so following an election, albeit against an opponent who chose not to run in the end.

With more than 15 years of sports management experience now behind her, Barbuto spoke to about the football world in which she operates. How did your love for football start?

Lucia Barbuto: Because I’m Banfield through and through. My whole family’s Banfield and has links with the club. The first time I went to a game was in my father’s arms. Then I started going with my sister and my friends. And when I was 18, after I’d finished school, I got tired of expressing my views from the stands and decided to get involved in the political side of things.

Have you ever played the game?

I’ve never played football. Girls had to do handball or athletics at my school and I didn’t have the chance to play. That’s something we’ve changed with the sports director at the three levels of the club’s own school. I don’t want any more ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ sports. I want mixed activities, which means football is no longer for males only.


You often say that football needs more and more of a woman’s touch. What do you mean by that?

In a world dominated by men it’s always important to have a woman’s view because it’s different. And it’s different because we’ve had a different cultural upbringing. It’s harder for us to get into positions where decisions are made and we feel the best response to that is to work with other women and create a network in which we can consult with each other the whole time. It creates an awareness that men don’t have.

Have you been able to do that at your club?

It’s a work in progress. Sometimes the number of women on the board doesn’t reflect our day-to-day work. Last year we had a lot of girls come into the units we run for gender equality and awareness, human rights, season-ticket-holder services and women’s football, where most of the representatives are women. It’s only a matter of time before that’s all reflected in decision-making areas too.

How do you see that whole process in Argentinian football? You see photos of big meetings and you’re still the only woman there.

It’s mixed feelings for me. We’ve come a lot further than I could have imagined when I was 16, but I think we could be in a better position. I’d like to see more than one female president or more than one woman in an important position. It’s a long road for those of us who are over 30, but I’m hopeful more young women will come through and that they’ll feel more empowered and certain in their minds that they deserve those positions and that they’ll take them. They’ll achieve more than we’ve done.


How do male fans treat you in the stands? Do they make sexist comments?

I get fewer and fewer of them and they’re not usually face to face but online. Being a sexist doesn’t pay anymore and even men are standing up to it now. If people question me respectfully, then I’m fine with that, as long as it’s a season ticket holder questioning me as a director, not if it’s a man doing it because I’m a woman.

What about your peers? Do the men who run football treat women better now?

They gave me a great welcome and, in general, all the old myths and prejudices have come crashing down, especially among men with daughters. But we’ve still got progress to make in that respect, which is why we’ve got the gender equality and awareness units. Nobody’s born with knowledge and you shouldn’t always judge people who hold these outdated views. We need to teach them and show them that we’re equal and that we’re in football because we love it and can run things as well as them.

Are you not tired of being called ‘the first woman to be elected president of a first division club’?

Not at all, if that’s what I am. I’m very happy and proud to have that label, but it’s also a big responsibility for me and I sometimes feel the pressure of having to do everything brilliantly so I can be a good example for the women who will follow me.

What would you like your legacy to be for those women?

I hope that me taking on the presidency opens the door and allows other clubs to see that they have very capable women working in other areas and who have management skills. I hope they see that it’s important to give them prominent positions.


Barbuto on…

It was a unique experience and an invaluable opportunity to grow as a leader and learn from FIFA protocols. I enjoyed spending time with a great group of players whose achievements have brought a lot of young girls into women’s football.

  • Women’s football in Argentina

The decision to go professional really helped us to grow. We’ve generated a significant amount of money through sponsors and TV has given us exposure. What the national team did in France was crucial too. We still need a lot because we’re just starting out, but we’re learning from our mistakes. We’ve come on light years compared to the past though.