Navi Pillay told the BBC she would like to see soccer make progress in combating racism, accepting homosexual players and boosting the role of women.
"It is time for football to catch up with 21st-century values of respecting diversity," she said.
Pillay said the sport "has to respect human rights law."
She said soccer needs to work to be more inclusive toward women.
"It is time for football to take a lead and particularly problematical here is continuing in old archaic ways saying football is a man's world. It's not," she said.
"I'm concerned that these huge clubs are administered by men," she said. There aren't women in decision making positions in these clubs. There is a wide gap and what women are saying to me is that since they are excluded from these positions their voices are not heard. So their right to freedom of expression is also affected."
Pillay, a former international criminal court judge, hosted a panel Thursday on racism and sports with Kevin-Prince Boateng, a soccer player with AC Milan.