Football: Legislation may be needed to force urgent reform of the Football Association, the Commons culture, media and sport committee said today.
In a 93-page report, the committee said that English football’s governing body needed to undergo wide-ranging changes and set a deadline of 12 months for “signficant progress” to take place.
Should the desired reforms not come to pass, the report recommended “the government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible.”
Eighteen months on from its July 2011 report on domestic football governance — set up after football supporters and commentators raised concerns about the effectiveness of checks and balances on financial management, as well as wider failures of governance — the committee said that the Premier League still had too much influence over the FA’s decision-making processes and again urged widespread reform.
Most damningly, the report chided the football authorities for their failure to make more progress on key areas of the last report’s recommendations.
Committee chair John Whittingdale MP said: “While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed to make the game inclusive, sustainable and driven from the grass roots, where it should be.
“The proposals for reform so far simply don’t address the fundamental problems — the licensing model, the way supporters are engaged at club level and the membership of the Main Board, which is not fully representative or able to balance interests adequately.
“In addition, the financial proposals were hugely disappointing — the financial risk-taking by clubs is a threat to the sustainability of football as a family and community orientated game, which it should be.
“This is a central issue which must be addressed and real solutions — and the will to make the necessary changes — have been glaringly absent from the proposals so far.
“We recommend that the DCMS make it clear to the football authorities that further progress on these issues is expected within 12 months. If football cannot reform itself, the government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible.”
The report urges the FA to “take the lead in decision-making for the game.” It noted that the FA, by delegating decision-making powers to the Premier League-dominated National Game Board and Professional Game Board, was an example of the “regulator, in effect, ceding power to the regulated.”
The report recommended that the FA reassert its role as protector of the national game by exercising “responsibility for all issues of major significance to the game through its Main Board and Council.”
Other recommendations concerned identity of ultimate owners at football clubs — particularly an issue for the Football League, with the report labelling the current sitation where many fans do not know who owns their club as “highly unsatisfactory.”
The report praised clubs for working towards the Financial Fair Play framework introduced by Uefa, but again raised concerns over the level of debt in the game, saying that clubs were more likely to spend money from lucrative broadcasting deals on wages and transfers than on increasing their sustainability.
On supporter representation and ownership, the report said that not enough had been done to engage fans, adding that “the degree of supporter engagement should not be left to clubs, as it is now.” It added that a responsibility to engage fans should be included as part of a new licensing model.
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