The Football Association’s governance of the game will be debated in the House of Commons this week after MPs tabled a motion of no confidence in the governing body.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee secured the debate, which will take place on Thursday 9 February, after the FA failed to reform and modernise itself.
The cross-party committee’s motion states:
“That this House has no confidence in the ability of the Football Association (FA) to comply fully with its duties as a governing body, as the current governance structures of the FA make it impossible for the organisation to reform itself; and calls on the Government to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the governance of the FA.”
The committee states that they published two reports in the last Parliament calling for the FA to reform, in a bid to provide “fans, women’s football, BAME groups, officials such as referees and grassroots sport” a “significantly greater” say in how the game is run.
But they feel these calls, which have also been made by “groups representing the wider game”, successive ministers for sport and, most recently, a number of former FA executives, have “been ignored by the FA”.
TIME 2 REFORM
OF The @FA Council's 122 members:
12 are aged over 80
92 are aged over 60
8 are women
4 are from ethnic minority backgrounds
— SaveGrassRootsFooty (@savegrassroots) February 4, 2017
In October, the Government published guidance on best practice in sports governance, warning the FA that it had six months to demonstrate a willingness to reform or face losing millions of pounds of public funding, which it would distribute to football through other means.
Now the Committee believes “it is clear that the FA does not comply with this guidance” whilst it notes “considerable resistance to the idea of changing its very out-of-date structure at all”.
Having failed to reform itself, committee chair Damian Collins MP believes it is time that Parliament forced the FA to take action.
“We do not believe that The FA will comply voluntarily: it can survive easily without the Government’s contribution of money to grassroots sport, and there are powerful vested interests that refuse to accept the right of all those involved in football to play a role in the governance of the sport,” said Collins.
“We are therefore preparing a draft Bill to bring the structure of The FA, especially its Board and Council, more into line with modern company practice and the Government’s guidelines for sports bodies.”
An FA spokesperson said that the governing body were “aware” of the debate taking place in Parliament this week, adding:
“The government announced a code for governance for sports’ governing bodies last year and we are working to their timeline for implementation later in the year. Football, like all sports, is following due process and we remain committed to working with the government towards compliance with the code.”
Within grassroots football, the FA has long struggled to shake off an image of old men in blazers, out of touch with the very people playing the game that they are running.
Whilst many FA staff working at Wembley Stadium and around the country don’t fit that description, the make-up of the FA Council, who take decisions on major policies, is hugely unrepresentative of those people who play the game.
Of the current 122 FA Council members, 114 are male, 118 are white and 104 are aged 60 or over – 12 of whom are over 80.
Many in the grassroots community believe it is time for a change. Last month, a poll of over 1,000 Club Website members found three in four (73%) people in favour of the Government forcing the FA to reform.
The Football Supporters’ Federation has also thrown its weight behind the Parliamentary debate, calling on people from across the game to ask their own MP to attend. A FSF statement read:
“Time and time again, the FA has failed to reform itself and this debate offers a major opportunity to make that happen. Most of all, we believe that supporters should have a much stronger voice when decisions are made about the game.
“At the moment there is just one supporter representative on the FA Council of more than 100 people. In order to put pressure on the Government and the FA, we need as many MPs as possible to attend the debate on 9th Feb. “
To support the FSF’s campaign and ask your MP to attend the Parliamentary debate, visit votefootball.org.