Government legislation suggested in effort to push FA into reforms

British Houses of Parliament. Photo: mendhak/Flickr

12.12.2016

By Mads A. Wickstrøm
The English Football Association (FA) council members could be stripped of their decision-making powers due to lack of will to initiate recurrent calls for long overdue governance reforms.

Former executives of the English Football Association (FA) have asked the British Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee to introduce legislation to reform the FA. David Bernstein, David Davies, Greg Dyke, Alex Horne and David Triesman, all former FA executives, say the organisation neither “can or will reform itself,” according to the BBC.

“We are of the view that the various football stakeholders and institutions have shown themselves to be resistant to threats and they do not believe there is any external political will to enforce change,” the former senior executives wrote in a letter to the British parliament.

They went on noting that; “the FA has been given more than enough time to self-reform and therefore we now ask that parliament take this on board, recognise that further promises of change are not serious, and legislate as necessary, including the appointment of a regulator to achieve the changes that are so desperately needed.”

In a response to the letter, Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee chairman Damian Collins said that he shared the concerns of the former FA executives and affirmed the committee’s preparation of a draft bill aimed at delivering the necessary structural reform of the FA, according to an article by Sky Sports.

The call for governance and structural reform falls on the backdrop of last summer’s government threat to curb the FA’s public funding by millions of pounds unless it made significant progress toward governance reform including a commitment to appoint more women to its board. Furthermore, the slamming of the FA comes at a time when English football is susceptible to severe critique and scrutiny due to numerous cases of allegations of child abuse

The confined and inflexible governance structure of the FA is, however, the most salient critique put forward: “The effect is compounded by the stakeholders who collectively exhibit vested interests, intransigence and short-termism at every turn.”

“They effectively gridlock decision-making ability within the organisation due to the lack of an independent, external perspective, checks or balances,” the former FA executives wrote in the letter to Parliament, according to The Telegraph.

As summarised by the BBC, critical points made by the former executives include:

  • The Premier League's financial power has a knock-on effect "right through the football pyramid".
  • The FA is compelled to contribute tens of millions of pounds to the Premier League, rather than the grassroots of the game.
  • The majority of those in senior positions are under-qualified to deal with the complexities of the FA structures.
  • The FA Board is neither an independent board nor an independent regulator.

According to The Telegraph, the FA responded in a statement:

“The FA is currently working on governance reforms to adhere to Sport England and UK Sport’s Governance Code for Sport which was released in October this year.

“The FA welcomes the new code as a means of ensuring that sports organisations in receipt of public money are operating in an effective and transparent manner that best supports their sports.

“We will continue to work with the appropriate bodies, DCMS and Sport England, to achieve this joint ambition.”

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