Jump to content

English Football: change or be changed.


Recommended Posts

Football authorities have until March 2012 to implement sweeping changes to the way the sport is run or face the threat of government intervention.

A deadline of 29 February has been set for the Football Association to overhaul its board and bring in a new licensing system for clubs.

Failure to do so will result in government legislation.

"[Football's] governance has failed to keep up with the modern game," said Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.

"I believe there are improvements that can be made. [but] I do not want government to run football, so this is an opportunity for the football family to work together to benefit the game in the long term."

The Government has identified three "immediate priorities" for action: a complete restructuring of the FA Board; the implementation of an FA-administered licensing system for the professional game; and significant changes to the make-up and processes of the "football's parliament", the FA Council.

The Government's stance comes after a report from MPs in July demanded the level of debt be addressed in the English game, [url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/14342703.stm]John Whittingdale MP saying "significant changes need to be made to the way the game is run to secure the future of England's football heritage."

The FA Board is currently made up of FA chairman David Bernstein, general secretary Alex Horne and five representatives from the professional game (the Premier League and Football League) and five from the national game (the county FAs).

With conflicts of interest and historic feuds usually making this structure unworkable, the Government wants the board to be comprised of Bernstein, Horne, two more FA executives, two independent directors, two from the leagues and two from the counties.

The reforms demanded of the council are a reduction in length of tenure and the introduction of more women, more councillors from ethnic minorities, more ex-footballers and more representatives of supporter groups.

The proposed licensing system is intended to build on the two leagues' recent efforts to put in more safeguards against financial mismanagement, asset-stripping owners, tax avoidance and other related sins.

This idea will be greeted by many in the game but the leagues are unlikely to welcome any interference in their affairs from the FA.

BBC Sport contacted the FA and the Premier League for a response to today's announcement but both organisations refused to comment.

They are also unlikely to be hugely receptive to the Government's enthusiasm for the greater involvement of supporters in club matters.

In words that will come as great encouragement to Supporters Direct, the organisation that helps fans form supporter trusts and pushes for representation on club boards, the Government has criticised the recent threat to its funding and backed its work.

But the Government has been more nuanced in its recommendations for reform of the "Football Creditors Rule", the infamous measure that states clubs, leagues and players must be paid first and in full when a team goes bust, while everybody else must settle for pence in the pound.

The Government has called for a more "appropriate and modern solution" but stopped short of saying it will scrap the rule.

These challenges to football come in the Government's response to the recent report on football governance drawn up by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The response states: "The Government shares the concern expressed by the committee at the extent of losses and the number of clubs on the edge of viability.

"Debt per se is not always a bad thing, but it must be genuinely sustainable and should be assessed as a percentage of turnover.

"Government believes that there is a legitimate role for the national governing body, working hand in hand with competition organisers, to ensure that appropriate and consistent checks and balances are in place to protect the overall financial integrity of the national game and its long-term viability.

"The recent moves by the Football League to work towards a break-even rule in the Championship are a welcome indication of the appetite amongst many clubs for a change."

That DCMS report was the product of months of consultation and a series of high-profile question-and-answer sessions between the 11 MPs on the committee and some of the most senior decision-makers in English football.

The 112-page end product was published in July and outlined a relatively dramatic programme of reform - "relatively" because government interventions into football have been numerous over recent decades, with most fizzling out after a bright start.

This time, however, may be different as Robertson has long signalled his intention to force the various tribes that run football in England to put aside their differences and work in a more democratic, efficient and transparent manner.

Earlier this year, Robertson, prompted by the debacle of England's bid for the 2018 World Cup, concerns about the sport's finances and its long-running refusal to implement agreed reforms, described football as "the worst governed sport in this country".

The minister has returned to this theme a number of times over the last nine months, most recently at last week's Leaders in Football conference in London, so football cannot say it has not been warned.


So, what does this mean?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 1
  • Created
  • Last Reply


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...