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Billie Jean King Urges Infantino to Hire Women in FIFA Jobs

FILE - Tennis great Billie Jean King laughs, reacting to President Barack Obama's remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Jan. 29, 2016.

Tennis great Billie Jean King has challenged FIFA and new president Gianni Infantino to hire more women for senior jobs.

King said in a keynote speech at FIFA headquarters on Monday that the world soccer body has a chance to transform itself after years of corruption scandals.

"No pressure, but the world is counting on you,'' King told Infantino, who was sitting in the front row as the long-time equal rights activist addressed a women's soccer leadership conference.

FIFA has no women in top management jobs with responsibility for soccer or commercial issues after more than 17 years led by former president Sepp Blatter.

King suggested "three concrete steps'' for FIFA to take: one-third of management hires should be women; appoint a CEO-like secretary general with "a proven track record of supporting gender equality''; appoint staff to create a commercial strategy for women's soccer.

Infantino was elected 10 days ago, hours after FIFA members also voted through a reform package that commits them to promote women's soccer.

"Not only are these reforms the right moral path but they make smart business sense,'' King said. "The business of women's football has a tremendous upside and it's FIFA's obligation to invest in the assets needed.''

The allegations that tainted FIFA in recent years have been blamed partly on a so-called old boys' network. FIFA never had a female member of its executive committee until 2012, but by next year should have at least six, one from each confederation, on an expanded and rebranded 37-member FIFA Council.

That proportion of 17 percent falls short of the 30 percent target set last year by women's soccer activists for the FIFA reforms steering group, which included Infantino.

"We can't just have a seat at the table,'' said King, who works with the same American corporate advisory firm as FIFA. "It is about having a voice at the table.''

Infantino gave an opening speech on his first full day at his presidential office.

"We have to embrace equality,'' the 45-year-old former lawyer said. "Alone I cannot do anything, I will need all of you. It will not be easy. But if you fight for it, as I will do, I am sure we will achieve some quite important success.''

FIFA hosts the annual event to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8.