THE boss named the most influential woman in British sport has told how she only got a break thanks to a male mentor.

Debbie Jevans, director of Sport England, the Football League and the Invictus Games, spoke to business people at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

Ms Jevans, who also advises the International Olympic Committee, said: “Although things have changed a lot with women involved in coaching and many more girls playing football, there is much more work to do – I still often find I am the only female in the boardroom.”

The former tennis player told how she got her break when mentored in sports administration by Philippe Chartrier, the French head of the International Tennis Federation.

“I only got my chance because I had a male boss who took me under his wing and gave me the initial opportunity. There are talented women out there, people interested in sport who can make a big difference,” she said.

She was speaking at the second chairman’s lunch, hosted by Cherries chief Jeff Mostyn and organised by the club’s commercial arm AFC Business.

She said: “There should be equal opportunity. With the right leadership and if a company or a club has that ambition and genuinely believes it is not impossible to have a diverse, and therefore more representative and effective, board.

“I’m by no means a feminist, but Judy Murray, who I played against, told me ‘If you have a voice you should use it’. That is what I am doing.”

She praised the work of AFC Bournemouth in removing barriers to getting more women and girls into grassroots football.

Mr Mostyn said: “We are so proud of our equality programme. As a football club we are totally and utterly committed to equality and we are certainly not just ticking boxes.

“There are very few women in Premier League boardrooms but change will happen and we will be part of that.”

The 50-strong audience included Cherries Ladies first team captain Sian Tilly.

AFC Bournemouth’s head of community, Steve Cuss, outlined the growth in women’s football since the Cherries men’s team won Premier League status in 2015.The club has two senior teams and four junior sides and an outreach programme reaching 300 people a week, with 12 girls-only sessions.

The club recently staged its first under-11 girls’ football tournament, with 245 10-year-olds from 30 schools.

The lunch was sponsored by chartered accountants and business advisers Hill Osborne.