Football Governance - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  Football is our national game. As well as having contributed £970 million to the Exchequer in 2009/10, it is also a significant and high-profile national cultural institution that plays an important role in the community and supports wider initiatives in a number of fields such as education, health and social inclusion.[1] Above all else, it generates strong emotional attachments that are hard to convey in statistics or on the pages of a Report but are nevertheless real and powerful.

2.  Supporters and commentators have expressed concern that there are insufficient checks and balances on financial mismanagement in football and that a failure of governance is jeopardising the sustainability of the game, both at the micro-level of individual clubs and at the macro-level of the pyramid league structure and the national game more generally. An oft-quoted statistic is that, in addition to Premier League Portsmouth's high-profile insolvency during the 2009/10 season, over 50% of Football League clubs have gone into administration—some on more than one occasion—since 1992, when the Premier League was founded. Concerns have also been raised as to whether the sport's governing body in England, the Football Association (FA), is fit for purpose. One underlying theme is that the commercialisation of the game, and associated financial risk-taking, is undermining football's ability to deliver wider community benefits.

3.  We have also been aware of the coalition Government's commitment to encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters. Indeed, the Government indicated to us that it would welcome a select committee inquiry to help frame its thinking as to how it should take this undertaking forward.

4.  Our predecessor Committee conducted an inquiry into Women's Football.[2] A number of factors convinced us that the time was right to turn our attention to the governance of the professional game. For example, there was the fall-out from the failure in December 2010 of England's bid to host the 2018 Football World Cup, which we have addressed in a separate Report.[3] There was mounting evidence of broader concerns about the health of the domestic game, expressed through the media, in MPs' postbags, and in Parliament during a well-attended Westminster Hall debate in September 2010.[4]

5.  The Committee announced its inquiry into domestic football governance in December 2010. We wanted to establish the seriousness of the problems facing the game, and to examine possible options to address them—including greater supporter involvement— that, crucially, did not impinge on English football's undoubted strengths. We were delighted with the volume and quality of the nearly 100 written submissions, including a number from supporters' organisations. We held eight oral evidence sessions, including two out of Westminster at Burnley Football Club and Wembley Stadium. This was a relatively large number for a select committee inquiry, reflecting the importance the Committee attached to hearing from all key stakeholders. Although the main focus of our inquiry was football governance in England, we also took evidence from the Scottish Football Association and from the Rt Hon Henry McLeish who has recently completed a review of Scottish Football, to see if there were lessons to be learned north of the border. We also undertook a visit to Arsenal Football Club to learn about Arsenal's work in the community and its innovative fanshare scheme. Finally, in March 2011, we travelled to Frankfurt and Munich to spend a few days learning more about the German system of football governance. The more heavily regulated German football model was the most frequently quoted in written evidence as a model from which England might learn.

6.  The second chapter of this Report provides context, explaining how the current English football model came into being in the early 1990s, and outlining its strengths and weaknesses. The third chapter examines the extent to which reform of the FA is a pre-requisite if the weaknesses of English football are to be addressed. The following two chapters assess in more detail the areas most often cited as lacking good governance: football financial management and club ownership. Chapter six looks at the case for greater supporter involvement in football governance issues, while chapter seven looks at the governance issues at the grass roots with the most potential to impact upon the future of the professional game. Finally, chapter eight looks at the way forward, including for Government.

7.  The Committee would like to thank Burnley Football Club and the FA for hosting oral evidence sessions; Arsenal Football Club; and all the organisations and individuals who gave freely of their time and knowledge during the visit to Germany. We would also like to extend our thanks to Christine Oughton and Rick Parry, our specialist advisers to this inquiry, for their invaluable contributions to this Report.[5]

1   Tax figure from Deloitte. Figure is contributions from Premier League and Football League clubs. Increases in income tax, national insurance and VAT rates will mean that the 92 professional clubs will pay more than £1 billion in tax in 2010/11. Back

2   Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2005-06, Women's Football, HC 1357 Back

3   Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2010-12, The 2018 Football World Cup Bid, HC 1031 Back

4   HC Deb, 8 September 2010, col 73-98 WH Back

5   Rick Parry declared the following interests: In receipt of a termination payment from Liverpool FC on a monthly basis. One of his sons is employed by Manchester City FC as a sports scientist.  Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 29 July 2011