The Football Association has been given a vote of “no confidence” in its ability to reform itself by a small number of MPs in the House of Commons.
The backbench motion has no legal force, but MPs have warned that legislation will be introduced if the FA fails to reform in line with a new official UK code of governance for sport, published last October, which requires 30% of board members to be female, one in four independent directors and more representation of ethnic minorities.
Having threatened to withdraw £30-40m of government funding if the FA fails to reform, sports minister Tracey Crouch said that the FA are “playing Russian Roulette with public money”, but claimed that the debate was “premature” as the FA still has until the end of March to comply.
On Tuesday FA chairman Greg Clarke said that he would resign if the Government did not support its plans for reform, but “strongly disputed” the motion that the FA was not meeting its duties as a governing body.
Whilst just 16 MPs, including the sports minister, spoke at the debate, there was a degree of consensus over the need for more diversity on the FA council – which has just 4 women in its 122 members, 92 of whom are over 60 – as well as fan representation and independent directors on the FA board.
Summing up, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chair Damian Collins MP, who called the motion, said:
“The message from this debate is absolutely clear: no change is no option. The debate on this issue has been running for too long, and the FA, to use a football analogy, is not only in extra time but at the end of extra time; it is in Fergie time and it is 1-0, down and if it does not pick up quickly and reform itself, reform will be delivered to it.
In response to the debate, the Football Association said that they “accept that our governance needs reform” and that they were “working hard to meet the Government’s new code for sports bodies”.
The FA statement then went very much on the front foot, outlining their role as a governing body and highlighting the work that it does across the game, arguing that this compares with “the best governing bodies in the world”.
“We strongly reject the allegation that we are not performing our duties. In fact The FA is a not-for-profit organisation that successfully generates enough revenue to support investment of well over £100m a year into football. No other organisation in the world directs that level of annual investment back into one single national sport.
“We believe The FA not only complies fully with its duties as a governing body, but it is comparable with the best governing bodies in the world.”
To read more about the work of the FA, visit TheFA.com.