Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Lord Burns, Graham Kelly and Lord Triesman
8 February 2011
Chair: I welcome our second
panel of witnesses this morning, in particular Lord Burns who
chaired the FA Structural Review in 2004, Graham Kelly, the former
Secretary of the Football League and Chief Executive of the Football
Association, and Lord Triesman, the former Chairman of the FA.
Q24 Mr Sanders:
Mr Kelly, is the Premier League today the Premier League you envisaged
during negotiations for its establishment?
Graham Kelly: No,
Mr Sanders, it is considerably different. If you were to read
the Blueprint for the Future of Football you would struggle
to reconcile that with the animal that exists today in the form
of the FA Premier League. I do not know if the coalition that
runs the country at the moment is the coalition that emerged from
the negotiations back in May but it seems it is rather different.
The football that existed in the middle of the 1980s has already
been referred to this morning. It was thundered during the middle
of the 1980s by one eminent leader writer that football is a slum
sport played in slum stadiums followed by slum supporters and
we had to break out from that situation.
After the Taylor report, the Government report into
the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, I commissioned the FA blueprint
on the instructions of the FA executive committee. The FA executive
committee was 12 leading members of the FA Council; there were
no directors of the Football Association at that time. The FA
Council comprised 92 members of the FA. The board members of the
FA were those 92 members of the FA Council. The FA did not have
a board whatsoever at that time and one of my first duties upon
taking office as FA chief executive was to attempt to institute
some reform of the FA but we were unable to effect any significant
change. Upon taking office we tried to effect some reform. Be
that as it may, the Hillsborough disaster sadly occurred and the
Taylor report was the outcome.
A lot of things happened in the 1980s, as you
have heard already this morning. The Taylor report came about,
the blueprint happened and the FA Premier League was formed in
1991-92. The model for the FA Premier League was the French league,
the French football federation or the German football federation,
both of which entail vertical integration. The league in both
those two countries is an integral part of the Football Association
and the key members of the league were intended to have key roles
within the Football Association Council. Nine members of the Premier
League were intended to have seats on the FA Council, but because
of challenges to the blueprint and because of various litigation
and recriminations, the original plan for the blueprint was not
Q25 Mr Sanders:
With hindsight, should the FA have secured more commitments from
the Premier League with regard to supporting the national team
and the lower leagues?
Graham Kelly: I
think probably it should. As Mr Collins said this morning, one
of the prime aims of the FA Premier League was to improve the
conditions of success of the England team. At the time, the number
of teams in the top division was 22 clubs; that was reduced. There
was to be a phased reduction from 22 to 18 and that was one of
the aims of the Premier League, to come down to 18. That came
down over four years from 1992 to 1996 and I think probably the
commitment should have been or could have been stronger. There
was, as I say, a lot of recrimination between
Q26 Mr Sanders:
Do you mean stronger in the sense it should have gone down to
fewer clubs or do you mean stronger in other ways?
Graham Kelly: Not
necessarily fewer. There perhaps should have been a stronger commitment
from the Premier League to the success of the England team perhaps
in the initial stages maybe, but I don't know.
Q27 Mr Sanders:
Lord Burns, how happy were you with the FA's reaction to your
Lord Burns: A certain
amount of the recommendations that we put forward have been implemented
and some have not been implemented. There has been, undoubtedly,
progress since I did that report. We have had the introduction
of an independent chairman, and the chief executive is now a member
of the board. The process by which the rules and regulation are
implemented has improved since that time. Some of the proposals
we made about the national game were partly followed: having a
separate board and a funding rule that means it gets a proportion
of the revenues from the FA. It has been left to manage them
itself, and that has worked pretty well. I think that whole national
game board side has worked pretty well.
The main recommendation, of course, which was
not followed was with regard to the board. I recommended that
there should be at least two independent directors and if the
chairman was an independent director then there probably should
be another two as well. The pattern whereby the board, which essentially
I think now consists of a chairman, a chief executive and five
members from the national game and five members from the professional
game is really not a sensible basis for going forward. I do not
want to put too much emphasis on this because England's performance
in the World Cup has very little to do with governance. The fact
that we did not get the World Cup here in 2018, I am not sure
has an enormous amount to do with it. But I listened to the conversation
this morning in terms of how the game is being taken forward and
how the FA really needs to become an effective regulatory body.
If we are to have regulation of football, which I assume we do
want, and as we implement the rules that have now been developed
in UEFA, then it needs a board that is constituted differently
from that which it is now. The present board, is as if with the
Financial Services Authority we had a controlling interest by
the banks whom they are regulating. I do not think anybody would
regard that as really being a satisfactory state of affairs. So
a lot depends on what you think the purpose of the FA is. Is it
to run the England team? Is it to be an effective governing body
and regulatory body of football? The more you want it to play
the second role, the more that it has to have some people on the
board who do not have vested interests in the regulation that
is taking place.
Q28 Mr Sanders:
Lord Triesman, when the former Government engaged with football
bodies on football governance, your response to the then Secretary
of State was to refer him to the responses submitted by the Premier
League and by the Football League. Why did the FA not submit its
The former Secretary of State asked the three organisations to
prepare a joint response to his questions, and I thought that
was absolutely right. It would be very good if it was possible
to come to some amicable agreement about how to carry forward
the regulation of the game. The Football League was completely
willing to engage in that with the Football Association; Lord
Mawhinney was completely willing to do so; the Premier League
was not. After some period of trying to persuade everybody to
come together to do it, the Premier League producedI think
we have probably all read itits own response to Andy Burnham.
The Football League then produced a response to Andy
Burnham and the FA, which had been doing very considerable amounts
of work on football regulation for some time past and discussing
it with all the partners, produced a document that was submitted
to the FA board, having been discussed with a number of other
people. The professional game representatives on the FA board
took perhaps a maximum of two minutes to say that the document
should not be submitted and to issue a board instruction that
a response should be made simply referring the Secretary of State
to the wisdom of the professional league, and in particular the
Premier League. I thought that was a grave disappointment and,
Mr Chairman, just in case it is helpful, I have brought the response
that we would have made.
Q29 Mr Sanders:
I was going to ask were there any substantive proposals that you
would have liked to have submitted but were unable to do so?
There were a significant number of substantive proposals, some
of them were to do with tightening the overall arc of financial
regulation, because it was very apparent that we were in extremely
choppy waters financially and that you could see very great football
clubs with very long histories in severe trouble. It was by no
means clear that they would all pull out of that severe trouble.
We could see a whole range of difficulties in the fit and proper
persons area. I heard earlier the example of Manchester City being
mentioned. Quite aside from the financial thing, as a former Foreign
Office Minister, I thought that there were other very, very grave
doubts about the person who had taken over Manchester City and,
indeed, had been sent by the Foreign Office to encourage him not
to dispose of his political opponents in quite as ruthless a manner.
But none the less, he was able to take over that club.
I believed that it was entirely possible to have
one set of regulations for finance. It might, rather like our
company law, have a different requirement for plcs to limited
companies. Of course you could have something that graded the
level of difficulty so that you would not be asking a very small
club to perform as though it were a massive club, but none the
less one set of regulations, preferably coherent with the emerging
UEFA regulations. It would be possible to have one set of regulations
about fit and proper persons and so on, right through the regulatory
I answer the question in that way because one
of the things I have found, not least with colleagues in the media,
is trying to describe how the bodies all have completely different
approaches and how things fall through the gaps between the different
approaches is very difficult. When you try and describe that to
football supporters, it becomes almost impossible. It is a thoroughly
unsatisfactory system with the key consequence that the FA itself,
in my judgment, having been its first independent chairman, has,
apart from on-field disciplinered and yellow cards and
the likehas backed out of regulating altogether.
Q30 Chair: Lord
Triesman, we are extremely grateful to you for bringing a copy
this morning of the submission that was not put forward by the
board. Are you providing that to the Committee?
I am, Chairman, because I think that the response of the FA must
have been all but unintelligible to the rest of the world. It
was to me. But I thought it best that people should see the body
of work, and very kindly a former colleague at the FA last week
sent me a copy and I have brought it.
Chair: Thank you. We will
read it with considerable interest.
Q31 Dr Coffey:
I have to declare an interest. I am undertaking a sports parliamentary
fellowship with the Football Association. I have done one day.
You specifically mentioned the former owner of Manchester City.
Is it your view then that the Foreign Office, either proactively
or reactively, said this person does not pass the fit and proper
test? I am trying to understand what you just said, because you
were saying as a former Foreign Office Minister there is no way
he would have passed the smell test, but are you sure that the
Foreign Office said that, either proactively or reactively?
I do not know, because I had left the Foreign Office by that stage.
All I can reflect on is that there were severe difficulties, which
you can find in the human rights annual report, which were associated
with that individual. While there are rules about who is and is
not a fit and proper person, it is extremely unlikely that somebody
at that stage, a head of state or immediate past head of state,
is going to fall foul of the courts in that country. That is not
what is going to happen. Consequently, you know that these are
issues, that they have not been tested in law, but the body of
public knowledge about the individual is quite large enough to
say, "Is this an appropriate way?" I can answer the
question a little more by saying that were this to happen in a
plc, I have no doubt whatsoever that the board of a plc would
say, "We're not going to do that".
Q32 Damian Collins:
I would like to pick up on the fit and proper person test, just
to follow up on the question I asked in the previous session.
Do you think there should be greater powers for redress against
the directors of football clubs who preside over their club going
into administrationclubs like Leeds and Portsmouth are
particularly strong examplesto act as a disincentive for
people to engage in bad practice and as a message to say that
if people have done that in the past, "We don't want you
in this game"?
I think there is a very strong case for that. The principal reason
that I say that is because most of the clubs that have got themselves
into that positionand this would not be 100% of all clubs
that have got themselves into that positionhave got into
that position by spending money, as I think was described in the
last session, related to their ambition rather than to their business
model. They want to beat other clubs; they spend what they believe
is necessary to do that. The model falls apartLeeds is
a very strong example of thatand they are left with a huge
financial crisis on their hands. People in other clubs reflect
not only on the amounts that were spent but on the unfairness
to the competitive regime that it creates.
I know people think that "financial doping"
is a rather dramatic term but it is a pretty accurate term for
what is described. From my own experience, this is not a matter
of an outside observer believing that that is the case. Most of
the people I spoke to who ran football clubs were among the people
who were fiercest about it, fiercest about the points deductions,
argued often for greater points deductions or for other kinds
of sanctions. People want it to be a fair competition on a level
playing ground, and they are right.
Q33 Damian Collins:
Lord Triesman, following your comments earlier, you talked about
the fact that the FA, other than regulating the rules of the game,
does not get that involved any more in the regulation of football
more broadly and I just wanted to ask a couple of questions about
that. Do you think there is scope on certain issues that are linked
to the way clubs are run where the FA should have more of a voice?
David Cairns mentioned Wimbledon in the previous session. Should
we have clearer rules that say you cannot pick up football clubs
from one part of the country and move them somewhere else? Should
the FA have a voice on whether it is desirable for Tottenham to
move their club from north London to east London? Should those
be the sorts of the things where the FA speaks for football?
That is a very sensitive question to ask me. The FA has a large
book of rules, much as the Premier League and the Football League
do. The question is whether it applies any of those rules in any
systematic way. My view is that it should do so: it should do
so systematically, it should do so transparently and everybody
should know the reasons for a decision, including on-field decisions
incidentally. I see no reason why those should not be publicly
disclosed; not just the penalty but the reasoning. One of the
key reasons for doing so is that under FIFA's statutes, the FA
is supposed to fulfil that role. That is one of the things of
the independent football associations of each of the countries
that are members of FIFA are supposed to do. Subcontracting it
is obviously a model that does not fit with the international
regulation of the game. I have no doubt that in the course of
hearing evidence you will hear people who will say "The FA
does do all of those things and it is not realistic to say that
they don't, and here is the book that sets out all the regulations."
I am just saying at first-hand experience that it has subcontracted
and does not question the subcontractor in those key roles.
Q34 Damian Collins:
Do you think the way in which the game is run drives this incentive
for clubs to take financial risks and spend more than they can
earn? Does the way the game is structured encourages that? I am
thinking particularly of the transfer windows. We have just seen
the very large expenditure at the end of the January transfer
window. Do you think that acts as an incentive to clubs to pay
higher signing fees and salaries, because they know they have
literally a rapidly closing window of opportunity and that can
be exploited by other clubs and agents to drive up prices in a
sort of shotgun transfer?
It does do so. It certainly does for clubs fearful of relegation,
although I do not think they were the main people spending money
in this last transfer window. It does it for clubs who are fearful
of not getting a European slot at the end of the season, because
that is the key to the door of very, very much larger sums of
money. The answer to it, I am very confident in my own mind, lies
in the arrangements that Michel Platini has advocated. Sadly,
because he is French or because it was not made here, he also
was attacked very roundly and very frequently. But saying to a
business that over a period of time it really ought to wash its
own face, that it should not drift further and further into debt
as an attempt to buy that kind of success, seems to me to be absolutely
right. Believe me, I am no mad advocate of massive regulation.
I would like to think of myself, particularly when I was in Government,
as a deregulator rather than a mad regulator. But with a little
further adjustment in, for example, debt ratiosexcluding
the building of new grounds and improving facilities, which is
a different sort of borrowing usually secured against the assetyou
could probably get fair competition across Europe and without
the excessive risk.
Lord Burns: Can
I just comment how it seemed to me from an historical perspective?
The FA grew up in much the way that many of the governing bodies
of sports did whereby there was a Council of people who came
up through the national game- effectively, through the county
football associations - and they had a whole series of committees.
The tasks that they set themselves were basically to do with running
the England team, running the FA Cup, the on-field rules, regulations
and discipline. They really spent relatively little of their time
in these other matters that we have been talking about with regard
to regulation. Then we had the emergence of the Premier League
and the huge amounts of money that have come from television,
including the FA Cup, the European competitions and the vast amounts
of money that are involved in these. The game became a very different
game. The role of the FA in principle then, of course, became
much wider as far as regulation is concerned and they also set
up a board of the FA that initially had the job of trying to simply
deal with the financial aspects of the Football Association.
I would not like the idea to emerge that somehow
historically the FA had played a very important role in off-field
regulation of football or of the structure of football and it
has retreated from that area. It seems to me what has happened
is that the game has changed and the requirement and the interest
in some of these off-field aspects of regulation has become much
bigger, because the sums of money involved are much greater. It
has become a much more international business, both in terms of
the matches that are played, in terms of the ownership of clubs,
in terms of the interest worldwide in watching the games on television
and therefore the value of the rights. That has set up a different
set of issues.
My perspective on this is that the FA has struggled
to come to terms with the extent of the change in the game and
therefore the burdens and the requirements that have been placed
upon it. It has operated a sort of subsidiary model as far as
the management of the leagues is concerned. We now have the slightly
strange situation where the lead has been taken by UEFA in terms
of the fair play rules and they are beginning to carve out an
approach to it. Our FA, I have to say, looks to me to be being
dragged along behind that rather than, as one might have expected
given the historical position of the FA, having been more in the
lead on these issues.
Q35 Damian Collins:
Do you think UEFA can create an equitable system for the European
leagues? There has always been a lot of competition between the
European leagues and one thing we might credit the Premier League
for is that there is a lot more money in the English game and
a lot more of our players play here. I looked up that when England
played Germany in 1990 in the World Cup, seven of the starting
11 had either or did go on to play football in European leagues.
In the last World Cup when we played Germany, none of the England
starting 11 had. Now, you can draw your own conclusions as to
whether it is a good or bad thing for players to play abroad but
it used to be a big factor that we supplied the European leagues
with players and now they come to us. We cannot turn the clock
back and we must be concerned that we might hamper the Premier
League in that regard.
Lord Burns: First
of all my perspective on the way that UEFA has approached this.
It has not been that its seeking to regulate our leagues or our
games but it is seeking to regulate fair play among its own competitions.
Therefore, it all comes down to the licensing of the clubs who
might be eligible for the UEFA competitions. The rest, I am afraid,
is a matter of judgement. My observation would be that the huge
amount of money in England for football has meant that this has
become the real marketplace where everyone is competing to be
- much the same, say, as with financial services. The result has
been, of course, that it has become more and more difficult for
our players to get into the Premier League teams. Also the people
who are very good, the outstanding players, can make a very good
living here by comparison with going abroad, whereas once upon
a time some of the more successful teams were overseas. So there
has been a shift in the balance.
Graham Kelly: The
shift has been over here because the majority of the money is
here. The Sky money, the satellite money, is here and it has attracted
more of the players here.
Lord Burns: And
kept our good players here.
Graham Kelly: Our
clubs are more able to retain the best players and to attract
the best players here.
Q36 Damian Collins:
The Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson, said that he thought football
was the worst governed sport in the country. I know Patrick Collins
was asked this question on the radio this morning, and he said
that, with all due respect to the Lawn Tennis Association, it
was. Do you think that is a fair assessment by the Minister for
Sport on the governance of football in this country?
Lord Burns: I do
not want to answer that directly. But if we were looking at this
in terms of outcomes I find it very difficult to imagine that
that was the case because we do have the most successful football
in the world. It is taking place in the UK on our television
screens, that a huge amount of people can watch. We have wonderful
stadiums and we have wonderful playing surfaces. I compare this
to the kind of football that I watched when I was much younger,
and it is completely different, looked at in terms of what is
it that is being produced. It is really quite remarkable what
has taken place over this period in terms of the quality of the
football that is now played in this country and that you can turn
up and see at the stadiums in this country. You cannot say that
that has been a result of brilliant governance or management by
the football authorities. It has been a combination of events,
as has already been mentioned. But in the light of that, it becomes
quite tricky, and I would say quite difficult, to substantiate
the charge that this is the worst managed sporting organisation
in the country. I would not like to have to justify that. David
may have a different view.
I think in terms of outcomes we obviously have fantastic success
in the Premier League and that is to be applauded. It is an amazing
competition; last weekend was an amazing example of that competition.
If we look at outcomes for England as a country playing international
football, the outcomes are very poor and I do not think they are
satisfactory to England football fans. I count myself as a straightforward
England football fan in that sense and I think that we have done
very poorly. As a system, if the Minister was thinking about whether
we have a good system, we have systemic failure. The board is
heavily conflicted. By the way, Terryif you do not mind,
ChairmanI ought to say that after a small while I learned
that I should never use your name in FA headquarters. I could
talk about the reforms but if I wanted some sort of means of frightening
the children I would quote you.
We are deeply conflicted. Terry was saying would
you have a banking regulatory system. The model that always went
through my head was would you have Ofcom exclusively made up of
Sky, ITN, the BBC and possibly ESPN now. The answer is you would
never ever construct something that way, which is why the original
recommendations on independent members is such an important proposition.
The reality is we have now seen some extremely good and extremely
sophisticated people coming into the management of parts of the
football business: Ivan Gazidis at the Arsenal, not my club, as
many people here will know. There are people of great quality
who have come in, but generally speaking as you go round, is this
broadly a successful group of people running such an incredibly
important institution as well as business in our society?
Other sports have changed in those last areas, in
their systems and in the people. They have become diverse; we
did not. They have not the same conflicts of interest in the way
in which they govern; we do. Hugh Robertson has made a point that
should not be dismissed. Cut into the layers of it, it is a serious
point and should be taken seriously.
Graham Kelly: I'm
sure, Mr Chairman, the FA fully accept that they must take on
board the concept of independent directors. They know they have
to go for independent directors. They know, the Premier League
know that there must be independent directors at the FA. I'm sure
they will welcome that recommendation. They have to be committed
to that now. They have to go for that now.
Chair: They didn't welcome
Lord Burns: It
was very interesting because the people who are on the FA board
from the national game see this as the pinnacle of their life
in football. This enables them to be on the various committees,
go down and shake the hands of the England football team, go down
when the FA Cup final is taking place, nice seats to watch the
games, and they are highly respected by their colleagues. They
see that they have worked for years and years and years through
the county associations and therefore this is an honour and it
is the peak of their ambitions in football. To then say to them
as I tried to, "Well, I'm sorry, you can't have five or six
people from the national game on the board of the FA, it should
be reduced to three" and all of a sudden there is panic as
to, "Which three of us are going to have to leave and over
which period and what does it mean?" The professional game
was not so concerned about the number. They would have reduced
their numbers, but of course it wanted equality with the national
game. You cannot have a system whereby you simply increase the
total numbers of people on the board otherwise it would have become
So, whereas most of them would agree about the principle
of independence they had two problems. One was, "What does
it mean for me and therefore what does it mean for my colleagues
and for the number of people who will be able to be on the board?"
The second, which was put to me more than once, is they would
say, "What is the point of having independent directors because
independent directors clearly don't know anything about football
and what is the point of having people here who don't know anything
about football?" Whereas the idea was, in principle, acknowledgedI'm
sure Graham is right that many people would like to see it--there
is an awful lot of built-in resistance to this. I am not holding
my breath about a big change in this area unless there is some
real push from someone.
Q37 Chair: Do
you stand by the recommendations in your original report?
Lord Burns: Yes.
Everything that has happened subsequently confirms that this is
the direction of travel. Indeed the only slight regret I have
is that maybe I should have been more ambitious about it. I was
hoping to have a set of recommendations that went in the right
direction, that went far enough to make a real difference but
which had a reasonable chance of being accepted, because I knew
the whole problem about turkeys voting for Christmas. It may be
that instead of saying there should be two or three independent
directors, if I was looking at this now I would be looking for
a larger number of independent directors.
Graham Kelly: I
wouldn't want there to be any misunderstanding about this. I am
very, very proud of the Premier League for a lot of reasons. Last
year, £36 million was distributed by the FA and the Premier
League via the Football Foundation. You talked to the previous
witnesses who talked about the trickle-down effect: £36 million
trickled down and was distributed by the FA and the Premier League
throughout football through the Football Foundation. That goes
down throughout football to all levels: to stadiums, to grassroots,
new pitches, new small sided pitches.
It isn't the Premier League that was originally envisaged,
I know that, I'm not stupid, but before it came into effect, ITV
had a cartel. Patrick Collins talked about Derby winning the first
division championship, and they did because they had a brilliant
manager and they had a good team, brilliant team, but by and large
Liverpool had pre-eminence over a lot of years in the 1980s. There
was the big five and in 1988 to 1992, ITV signed a secret agreement
with five clubs. Nobody knew about that in 1988 and the moneyonly
a small number of clubs were guaranteed exposure under the television
contract in those four years. So until that was broken, there
was not the spread of television matches like we saw last week
with West Brom versus Wigan midweek. So there wasn't the spread
of matches like there is at the moment, so there isn't the concentration
of power in the Premier League like there was in the old first
division. So, football isn't quite so romantic as sometimes we
like to think it was.
Q38 Chair: Lord
Triesman, Lord Burns suggested that he might have been even more
ambitious had he been able to. Going on your experience when you
were chairing the FA, do you think the Burns recommendations would
have done a lot to make the FA a more effective organisation and
would you like to go further, as he is now suggesting that he
We would have been more effective if we had adopted all the recommendations
and it would have been good to go further. The reality is that
what counts in this country as being an insider in football or
somebody who comes in who is independent is probably a rather
blurry line. I do not know whether I would have countedI
was independent, I was the first independent chairman, but I had
played football right the way through to my mid-30s, got to the
bottom ranks of the senior categories of referees and had my coaching
awards. Apart from occasionally going and earning a living, I
always felt that I was deeply embedded in the sport and probably
people who would have come in as independent directors would have
also had that love and engagement in the sport.
Lord Burns is completely right, also to say, as people
used to say to me, that there was no appetite for changing the
personnel at any level. That was not because members of the council
had not made a great contribution around the counties. I can think
of one or two of them: Ray Kiddell from Norfolk who had been one
of the great driving forces in women's football, for example,
and should get great credit for that, and David Elleray in refereeing.
But if you try to raise the question of, "Why is it that
this room is entirely made up of men, bar two, that there are
two black faces, one of whom came in partly because of the report,
Lord Ouseley, why is it that hardly anybody here has played professional
football or has been a coach in professional football?" the
answer, of course, is you do need those voices and you need that
knowledge and that experience in any professional and amateur
sport but they weren't there and no one was going to change it.
I understand that people see it as the summit of a great deal
of very valuable work. Of course that is true, but other sports
have managed to change and other sports reflect what Britain is
like today in ways that have not damaged those sports.
Q39 Paul Farrelly:
Thank you, Lord Triesman, for providing us with the FA's proposed
response. It is has helped save the FA time, effort and expense
in complying with a polite request from this Committee to provide
it, so hopefully it will go on our website as soon as possible
for the world to read. The title of this inquiry is football governance
and I wanted really just to probe further into how the board of
the FA operates. Lord Triesman, you have given me the perfect
example when you cited the case of the representatives of the
professional game taking just two minutes to look at your document
and then it was decided not to submit it. By my arithmetic, the
board is made up of 12 people, five from the professional game,
and that leaves seven others. What happened? The numbers were
Just so you get the sequence right, the professional game board
meets usually the day before the FA board and it comes to a conclusion.
It is led by the most powerful force in professional football
because the most powerful force in professional football controls
such a high proportion of the money that flows through. At that
stage, there were 11 because we were between CEOs; there were
11 people rather than 12. When you get into the room the point
was made, as it happens, by the chairman of the Premier League,
that this should be disregarded from that point on and we should
simply acknowledge the work that had been done by the Premier
League principally, but by the professional game, and reminding
the members of the national game, the amateur representatives
there, where their money came from.
Q40 Paul Farrelly:
So in good Leninist style, the representatives had had a pre-meetingwe
encountered this in the Labour Party not too long agobut
still there were six. So are you saying that the representatives
of the national game are all too easily cowed into not standing
On issues which are regarded as absolutely critical to the professional
game, they may not vote with them but they will not vote against
Q41 Paul Farrelly:
You mentioned the chairman of the Premier League, Sir David Richards.
Can you just give us a flavour of how, following these pre-meetings
where the line is decided, he conducts himself at FA board meetings
when issues of vital interest such as this come up?
Let me preface this by saying that I believe the problem is systemic
rather than the personalities. It is to do with the balances and
the interests and the conflicts of interest. My experience is
that he will put his point politely in a board meeting but discussions
outside, across football generally but certainly with some people,
are extremely aggressive discussions, really aggressive discussions.
The points are made in a very colourful way.
Q42 Paul Farrelly:
Very colourful. I would not
Dr Coffey: So it would
be unparliamentary language, would it?
I wouldn't use that language.
Q43 Paul Farrelly:
One of the things that we hear from time to time is that the premiership
represented by its chairman occasionally might threaten to withdraw
its clubs if the FA did not toe the line. Can I quote from The
Beautiful Game by David Conn, who is a Guardian journalist,
"I have it from three members of the FA's main board that
Dave Richards was constantly threatening to withdraw the premiership
clubs from the FA Cup, or saying the clubs would withdraw if he
didn't get his way on an issue, usually over money. The sources
complained that they could not debate with Richards in any detail.
He would fly off, be dismissive or issue a threat." On the
following page, 365, the book also quotes Dave Richards' response
to that as, "Bollocks". Do you recognise that sort of
That has a terrible ring of authenticity.
Q44 Paul Farrelly:
Is it right that the chairman of the Premier League, who does
not represent a Premier League club, although I think he was involved
in Sheffield Wednesday many years agoand we wish Sheffield
Wednesday the best of success in the futureshould be on
the FA board, and certainly after 10 or more years should still
be on the FA board?
I think there is a good principle in trying to get a circulation
of people on the boards of any enterprise. It is inevitable, and
I am not making this as a comment about anybody in particular,
that you get a little stale if you are doing the same thing year
after year after year. Of course you bring growing experience
but you do not necessarily bring new ideas. So circulation would
be a good thing. The structure of the FA board puts the chairman
of the Premier League on the FA board. That is a structural decision;
whoever it was would be there. The reason I am so supportive of
Lord Burns' view is that we could have done with probably even
more independents than appeared in his report is because it is
extremely hard for anybody who comes in representing the Premier
League to do other than represent the Premier League. It is not
the FA that is being represented at that stage. There will be
a great deal of courtesy about its history and why it is so important,
but that is not what is being represented and that is the problem.
Q45 Paul Farrelly:
Is it the case that if you have been around for a long time and
you have a certain way of behaving and a certain track record
in getting your way, you might lack some of the self-awareness
where other people independently might say that you don't recognise
that your behaviour might be a problem and also for the reputation
of the Premier League itself as well?
The reality is this is a very, very macho sport and I think some
people have cultivated what they think is the language of the
dressing room as being appropriate everywhere.
Q46 Paul Farrelly:
After a decade or more, do you think it is right for the Premier
League to question who it has as chairman and who it chooses to
represent it on the FA board and whether, indeed, Sir Dave Richards,
with that description of authenticity about the behavioursome
bullying behaviour as many people would categorise it ashas
really had his day?
Whoever the Premier League decides it wants as its chairman or
therefore wants on the FA board under its current arrangements
must be a matter for the Premier League. It has a board of two
people with, I think, a third person attending. I think that is
right. It may be three but I think it is just two with one other
person attending. It comes to its decisions and it must be for
the shareholders in, I suppose I should give it its proper title,
the FA Premier League. It is still its actual title. We held a
golden share; I could never find out to use it. But the decisions
are taken by that board of two people and I guess with the support
of the clubs. I'm not trying to avoid your question. I do think,
though, that bodies that are constituted properly in their own
right need to take those decisions. I would like to think that
they looked at things afresh from time to time, because it is
in the interest of the sport to do so.
Q47 Paul Farrelly:
I would like to put a couple of questions to the other panel members
but, Lord Triesman, you mentioned you have heard also that the
board of the FA and perhaps the FA itselfyou tell uscould
be categorised as white, middle-aged and male. I do not have a
bone of political correctness in my body, but you said that there
were certain interests that should potentially be more widely
represented throughout the FA. Did you try yourself, when you
were the chairman, to bring more people through and, if so, what
was the response at the board?
There was no appetite for change. I think that sums it up pretty
much. When Ian Watmore was the CEOin my view, an exceptionally
talented person--and stayed for just nine months, he also made
real efforts to see if change could be achieved. You may well
be seeing him and you can ask him the questions for yourselves,
but he did not believe that change was going to be achieved. He
had, as an alternative, come up with a proposition, which I supported
because I thought it might at least make some progress, to get
a group of people in who would be advisers who were drawn from
the game, who were more diverse, both in ethnic and gender senses.
That idea was dismissed. I do not know that it took much more
than the two minutes either. That idea was dismissed on the grounds
that the talent that was needed was in the room and so there were
a small but very significant number of people who, in my judgment,
would have been very valuable advisors to us, but that was not
Q48 Paul Farrelly:
I hope we will get a chance to ask him. What do you understand
was the straw that broke Ian Watmore's back?
I think you need to ask him that. He was managing director of
Accenture. That is a post I believe you get by being elected by
your partners. It is probably not the easiest job to win in the
world. He had vast experience in business way before he came into
senior positions in the civil service. If I were on your Committee,
I would ask him whether he believed, based on all of his experience,
he thought that he could contribute to getting any change at all.
Q49 Paul Farrelly:
Lord Burns and Graham Kelly, can I finish my questions by asking
two linked questions? Who would be responsible for appointing
independent directors so that they are not creatures of one constituency
or another? In appointing an independent chairman and independent
directors, what is the problem that we are trying to fix?
Lord Burns: The
problem that we are trying to fix, and we have been through in
some detail already, is the fact that the board is dominated by
people whose main interests lie on one side of the game or the
other. If the board is going to carry out a regulatory role then
it needs some rebalancing, and for the reasons also that Lord
Triesman has explained, independent directors do bring a different
perspective on life. They are usually working elsewhere, they
are seeing how other boards work, they see standards and practices
and the way that things are done, and they are able to help in
terms of the whole culture of the way in which a board operates.
I have spent the last 13 or 14 years on a whole variety of company
boards and the independent directors really do bring a very different
perspective. They ask the questions that very often are not being
asked by the executive team or the people who are not independent.
Indeed, following my report, I notice that there
has been an introduction of independent directors on to the national
game board. I think there have been independent people brought
on to the regulatory body that has now been established. So the
principle does not seem to be lacking in the FA. It is just that
when it comes to the FA board itself, the vested interests of
the people who are on that board are making it very difficult
to get any real breakthrough on this. Having one person who is
independentand all credit to Lord Triesman for seeking
to carry out that roleit's an enormously lonely role to
be the only independent director. Frankly to be chairman and
the only independent director I think is even more lonely.
Q50 Paul Farrelly:
Who should do the appointing to make sure they are truly independent?
Lord Burns: In
the end that has to be a process of nominations by the board itself,
but the council then should have a role in terms of approving
them. The council are effectively the shareholders or, in a sense,
the parliament of football. I think they are the people who are
best placed to do that. I can't quite see what other body would
do it. I do not think there would be any great shortage of candidates.
I think there would be a lot of really very good people, as we
see from lots of regulatory bodies, who are able to do those jobs.
I should also say that there has been some shift,
too, since my report,in the make-up of the council itself. Some
of the bodies that Lord Triesman mentioned are being represented:
the referees, the professional footballers themselves and various
minority groups, women's football and so on. So there has been
a bit of opening up of that but it is still very much dominated
by the same groups and the same methods of working their way through
the national game. It is a structure that makes change enormously
difficult to bring about because of the positions. There are one
or two people who were on the council, who were representing positions,
which it is very difficult to see how in this day and age they
should have been representated. I will not name any but you just
have to go down the list to see some of the anomalous positions
that are there. They came to me and protested about the suggestion
that some of them should no longer have seats on the council.
It was clear to me that one of the overriding concerns they had
was that they would be seen as the last person who had been a
representative of this particular organisation and they would
go down in history as the person who had lost their seat on the
FA Council. This was something that they were not quite prepared
to live with. So you have these enormous forces for no change
that are built into it all.
Graham Kelly: No,
I can't add to that, Mr Farrelly, It's just too entrenched. The
structure of the council at the moment is just too entrenched.
It needs opening up to support the independent chairman. I do
not know how Mr Bernstein is going to approach it. They have made
the appointment of a different independent chairman now, but he
needs the support to make progress.
Q51 Jim Sheridan:
The turkeys at the Scottish Football Association have some difficulty
in agreeing with Christmas as well because they want to cut the
numbers but see it as somebody else's job that they want to cut.
On this bullying, harassment and threats of the Premier League,
if I was a supporter of a lower league club hearing that this
sort of behaviour is going on and that the FA, the body that is
supposedly looking after my interests, is being bullied and threatened,
that would give me some concern. I would be looking for the current
board of the FA, or if necessary the Government, to take some
sort of action to stop this behaviour. What help or advice could
you give the current board to stop this?
Lord Burns: I believe
that the board has to be the agent of change for itself and it
then has to carry on the process of changing the constitution
of the council itself in terms of opening it up to other groups.
I fear that I share a view that I heard expressed in the earlier
session today: it is not easy to see where Government has any
real purchase on this. I think you have to ask the question whether
there are any built-in advantages that football has, which in
a sense have been provided by Government, either in relation to
tax or the way that it deals with administration or whatever.
To simply have Government march in and try to exercise a role
would be quite difficult. I think it has been mentioned again
earlier that one of the requirements of FIFA and of the international
bodies is that the Football Association should be independent
of Government. So Government has to be very careful about how
it sets about this.
I worked with John Major back in 1991 in terms
of putting together the proposals that eventually led to the all-seater
stadiums. If I remember, we channelled some of the pools betting
duty into the Football Trust to support the all-seater stadiums
on the basis that the clubs were themselves going to also put
in money. This provided Government with a certain amount of leverage
because it was doing something itself. But without that leverage,
and without something that Government is putting in or has some
role or where there are some special privileges that football
is having as a result of Government action, I think Government
has to tread very, very carefully.
Q52 Jim Sheridan:
The status quo is not an option, is it, if you are a supporter
of a lower league club?
Lord Burns: There
is one route that is proving to be quite important in bringing
about change. As I mentioned earlier, that is coming, through
UEFA which has done a lot of work on fair play, particularly with
regard to financial matters. It has its leverage because it has
to agree that the teams that may be in the Champions League, or
the other competitions, are licensed to do so. It then passes
on the job of doing that licensing, I think, to the FA. That in
turns gives the FA a certain amount of power. The process has
to be one of persuasion. I think that Government simply stepping
into this area and seeking to impose solutions will run up against
Obviously, I have thought about that issue at some length. It
seems to me that there are three ways in which you can potentially
get people to change what they do. The first is that you persuade
them and if there is a process of persuasion and authority that
is fine, that will always be the best, but I think that is pretty
hard. UEFA will help in that, I suspect, but it would not necessarily
have an impact on the clubs going right the way down though the
The second is finance and finance has been used
for leverage purposes. I do not mean debt leverage but leverage
on the FA. For example, there was a lot of reluctance to accept
the new anti-doping regulations of WADA and we were put under
considerable pressure to do that. The paradox, of course, was
that we would lose Government money if we didn't do it but the
money we lost was essentially money that was going to the amateur
game; the issue about doping testing was in the professional game.
There was a mismatch and it was very hard to make that work. I
hope that it now potentially can work.
The third is, and I think this is an interesting
debate to be had, is that it is certainly true that FIFA does
not want the intervention of Government in football but there
are a number of countries that have a basic sports law. It covers
all sorts of things like mounting Olympics and world cups and
so on, so you can then do with secondary legislation what we trawl
our way through dealing with primary legislation. You can use
it for all sorts of purposes but it can also, and it does in some
countries, allocate the key responsibility for the regulation
of sport to the sports governing bodies so that they must do it
and they must be accountable for it. After that the Government
stands back. I have not known FIFA withdraw its authority or threaten
to exclude any one of those countries from its full role in running
the sport. It would be a great pity to have to consider legislation
as a means of doing it but it would not be right to rule it out.
It certainly would not be right to rule it out on the ground that
FIFA would automatically object to it if the consequence was that
that sports governing bodyin this case the FA or the SFAhad
the absolute clear responsibility for the regulation of the sport.
Q53 Alan Keen:
If I could make three quick points. First of all, did we not get
a timely reminder last week of leverage being available with the
woman who was buying TV coverage of football from Greece? I went
to Brussels as part of a small team of people to lobby the European
Union when there were threats to the ability to negotiate the
Premier League games as a total rather than let it go to individual
clubs. That is a very big issue if European law was brought to
bear. I think Damian was a little bit unfair on Peter Ridsdale;
he was sort of saying he is a bad man. I think there is no comparison
between Peter Ridsdale who did what the Leeds supporters wanted
him to doit was bad financial and technical football decisions
that he made and it failedbut you contrast that with the
Glazers who have no interest in Manchester United or their supporters.
There is no comparison. I think we did Peter a disservice.
Secondly, David, you gave Michel Platini the
credit for the fair play rules. The all-party parliamentary group
plan in 2009 recommended that. My sparring partner and friend,
Richard Scudamore, straightaway said it was impossible to define.
It was not impossible to do because they have found ways to define
it, so it is going to happen.
I wanted to ask about FIFA. Is it true that
the FA has not really over the years made proper efforts to engage
with the international game through FIFA? We complained when we
did not get the 2018 bidI was as disappointed as anybodybut
really we, as part of the international game, should be looking
to spread the World Cup around the world. Maybe one time it should
be a well-established nation like us and the next four years it
should be a developing nation. But the main question is has the
FA failed to engage with FIFA. Going right back in history, we
felt so important that we didn't even join. Is that right?
Over a long period, apart from the process of bidding for the
2018 World Cup, the only real link with FIFA has been Geoff Thompson
who is one of the vice-presidents. Aside from that and efforts
made in special circumstances, I don't think there has been any
real engagement at all.
There is one area in which we do engage, along
with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland FAs, and that is
in the International Football Association Board where those four
FAs and FIFA are responsible for the on-the-field laws of the
game. That is a fantastically nice piece of history to still have
in place. But it is certainly true that to have a great sense
of the internal councils of FIFA you have to have vastly more
engagement than we have had. Sometimes we have backed out and
Q54 Chair: Lord
Triesman, I can't resist: Alan mentioned FIFA and the World Cup
bid. Do you have any observations on the outcome?
Very, very acute disappointment. I think there will be a time,
Mr Chairman, when the contacts that I and others had with members
of the FIFA executive should be described in detail, because some
of the processes I don't think really stand up to proper scrutiny.
Q55 Chair: When
should that time be?
I think it would be a long part of a session here. I am not averse
to doing that, but it would probably be rather longer than you
intend for this morning's session, given where we are at this
moment in time. When we set off on the bid, there was a huge amount
of encouragement from FIFA who said that they weren't certain
about how the finances of South Africa would work out or how the
finances of Brazil would work out. There were risks. Their risk
registers on whether these tournaments would return a substantial
income to FIFA were very high. There was, for those reasons, a
lot of encouragement for England to go for it, because we could
do it, we could produce tremendous returns, we can organise events
of that kind and complexity and handle security and all the other
things that you have to do. Had they said at the time that the
aim was to break into new territories, I would have advised the
FA board not to start in the first place. We started on what turned
out to be a completely false prospectus.
Chair: Tempting though it is to go on
for some time, I think we should probably draw a line there. I
thank the three of you very much.