8 The way forward |
254. There is a need for a strong FA to sit above
strong League competitions. A strong FA is needed to strengthen
financial governance in relation to club financial management
and ownership through oversight of a domestic licensing system
which will in turn complement the new financial fair play provisions
of UEFA's licensing system. The risk is that, without this, the
current unacceptable level of administrations and clubs experiencing
acute financial difficulties will continue. This would have a
negative effect on the community benefits of football and, potentially,
also on the competitiveness of the Leagues and the sustainability
of England's uniquely long football pyramid. A strong FA is also
required to give strategic direction to youth development and
coaching policies, and to direct other initiatives at the grass
roots. Finally, though this has not formed a major part of this
inquiry, a strong FA is required to develop and maintain strong
national sides. We agree with David Bernstein that the FA needs
to provide moral leadership, and we see resolution of the future
funding of Supporters Direct as a good test case for this.
255. We are optimistic that the reforms we have
proposed to improve the FA's own internal governance will enable
it to take up this strong role. However, we are also acutely conscious
that a number of previous reports into English football governance
have sought unavailingly to induce similar reform. While, therefore,
we echo the sentiments of previous reports for the key stakeholders
to work together to implement our recommendations for the good
of the game, we have also considered whether more radical intervention
256. Much of our evidence has been sceptical
that change from within the game is possible. Westminster University
reflected on the number of previous reviews and reports on football,
and concluded that "it is of some concern that much of the
good work and solid recommendations in previous reports have not
been fully implemented or considered".
Manchester United Supporters Trust observed that
"football authorities have been given multiple opportunities
to reform but have failed to do so", a sentiment echoed
by other supporters trusts.
Ian Watmore advised us:
You should set out what the strategic objectives
for football as a whole are and then what role the FA has within
that and then how the FA might have a governance structure to
determine that. I don't think it will come about through natural
257. The solution favoured by most was Government
intervention. However, it is also the case that the Government
has little leverage on a game able to generate huge revenues of
its own, and the governing body of which is vehemently opposed
to some types of Government intervention. The most practical solution
proposed was intervention by means of a Sports Act to consolidate
the position of the FA as the governing body of the domestic game.
Because such legislation exists in other European countries, this
could not be constituted as undue Government interference. Lord
Triesman, for example, noted that:
there are a number of countries that have a basic
sports law [
] 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.
He concluded that "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".
258. Ian Watmore similarly argued that Government
intervention "whether that is an Act or a strongly worded
demand" was required.
Most intriguingly, perhaps, William Gaillard from UEFA appeared
favourably disposed to a legislative solution. Citing the example
of France, he told us "there is legislation in my country
] where it is clearly stated what is the role of the national
association, the clubs, the leagues and so on, and therefore you
avoid the turf wars that have been going on in this country".
Legislation would not be without risk, however. The Court case
referred to in earlier chapters concluded that the FA was not
susceptible to judicial review. Putting the FA's authority on
a statutory basis might have the unintended consequence of rendering
the FA's decisions susceptible to challenge through the courts.
259. We asked the Sports Minister if legislation
was a viable option to strengthen football governance in England.
He acknowledged that "we could, in extremis, pass legislation,
as indeed a number of other countries have done".
Urging the football authorities to appreciate the strength of
feeling about the need for stronger governance in football, he
commented that "I hope they will see the light; that they
will make these changes and that we will not have to legislate.
But if they prove unable to do itand the track record isn't
massively encouragingthen legislate we will".
260. We are clear that our key recommendations
would improve football governance and act so as to address the
weaknesses in our game without impacting adversely on its manifold
strengths. They leave the Premier League and the Football League
free to run their successful competitions, and give the FA the
opportunity to help them curb the financial excesses that threaten
to damage the integrity of their competitions. They also allow
the FA to chart the strategic direction of football in England
in a manner commensurate with its status as a governing body.
261. Almost all our recommendations
for the reform of football governance can be achieved through
agreement between the football authorities and without legislation.
We therefore urge the football authorities to consider our Report
carefully, and to respond positively with an agreed strategy and
timetable for change. As a last resort, in the absence of substantive
progress, we recommend that the Government consider introducing
legislation to require the FA to implement the necessary governance
reforms in line with its duties as a governing body.
364 Ev w145 Back
Ev w36 Back
Q 368 Back
Q 52 Back
Q 52 Back
Q 370 Back
Q 749 Back
Q 763 Back
Q 811 Back