Written evidence submitted by Dr Malcolm
Clarke, FRSA, supporter representative on the FA Council |
1. I have been a match-going football fan for
about 50 years, attending approximately 50 games per season. I
am Chair of the Football Supporters Federation but in carrying
out my duties on the FA Council, which I joined in 2007 as the
first ever supporter representative following the Burns review,
I liaise with and reports back to other specialist national supporters
2. I am a former NHS Chief Executive and Local
Authority Chief Officer, who is now a self-employed quality consultant
and policy analyst. I hold or have held a range of public appointments
including sitting on two national Tribunals; sitting as a member
of the General Social Care Council, the regulator for the social
care workforce; sitting as an NHS Non-executive Director and acting
as Trustee of a Charity. In these roles, in my former employment
and in my consultancy work I have had extensive experience of
both regulation and governance issues.
detailed review of FA regulatory processes and the role and composition
of the Football Regulatory Authority (paras 5-6).
of measures to improve diversity on the FA Council (para 13).
appointment of two independent non-executive directors to the
FA Board (paras 15-17).
of the Alliance as part of the professional game (para 21).
of second class status by enfranchisement of the six "Football
family" representatives (para 22).
into a single body of the shareholders and Council (para 24).
of new independent FA Board composition (para 25).
of new smaller "Council" (or some other name) to enable
effective representation of all stakeholders and advise the Board
and hold it to account (paras 26-27).
3. I endorse the evidence of the Football Supporters
Federation and Supporters Direct. This is a statement of evidence
based specifically on my experience as the supporter representative
on the FA Council.
4. There are many dedicated staff working for
the FA who produce high quality work across the enormous range
of activities which are necessary for the promotion, development,
regulation and governance of the game in England, much of it out
of the public eye. Similarly, on the FA Council, there are many
members who make a valuable input at Council and Committee level
based on a wealth of experience of running football in a wide
range of roles. My views on the need for reform are based on structural
arguments not personalities.
5. The former Chief Executive, Ian Whatmore,
gave an (in my view) insightful presentation to the FA Council
on the problems, weaknesses and conflicts with the current regulatory
arrangements in the FA, at what turned out, unfortunately in my
view, to be his last FA Council meeting before he resigned for
reasons which were never reported to the Council. Neither did
we hear his proposed solutions. I believe that there is a case
for a further detailed review of the regulatory processes, in
the light of the experience since the changes introduced following
the Burns changes.
6. This should include a review of the effectiveness
of The Football Regulatory Authority which was set up as an arms
length unit in pursuance of Burns recommendations, but the interesting,
and often unnoticed thing, is that its role is different to that
envisage by Burns, who saw it as a regulation and compliance unit,
not one which determined regulatory policy.
THE FA COUNCIL
7. Lord Burns envisaged two roles for the FA
Council. First, that of holding the Board to account and, second,
acting as the Parliament of Football to debate key issues in the
game. I agree with that analysis. Unfortunately, at present Council
does not, because it cannot, fulfil either role effectively, for
8. First, it is far too big. There are 118 members
of Council. This inevitably means that such discussions as occur
on decisions or recommendations of the Board or Committees are
based around formal questions to the top table, and that it is
very difficult for a member to pursue a point or engage in exploratory
dialogue with the Board members, the executive or Committee Chairmen.
9. Twenty-five of these, ie almost a quarter
of Council, are Vice-Presidents or Life Vice-Presidents. There
are six Vice-Presidents and 19 life Vice Presidents. Life Vice-Presidents
are those who have served 20 years on Council and, somewhat bizarrely,
have reached the age of 72 (ageism in reverse !). Their appointing
body can the backfill the resultant vacancy, thus increasing the
size of Council considerably. Burns suggested a Council of Honour
to recognise the contribution of longstanding members of Council,
but this was not adopted.
10. Second, the format of the meeting is the
approval or otherwise of a large number of sets of Board and Committee
minutes. The Council does not receive detailed written reports
from the executive on key issues and does not routinely see the
background papers which went to the Board or committees. It is
therefore very difficult for Council members to brief themselves
on the background to key decisions before Council meetings. This
means that it is very difficult for the Board to "report
on its activities and performance and to be questioned and challenged"
(to use Burns' language) at the Council.
11. Third, it only meets five times a year. This
means that sometimes the minutes of the Board and Committees refer
to meetings which took place literally months previously, and
the matter has passed or developed significantly.
12. Fourth, significant time is not allocated
for debate on the key issues facing football. There are sometimes
presentations on particular topics, followed by questions but
there is rarely time for extended debate on these topics. The
meetings start at 11.00 am and finish with lunch. Considering
that it costs about £20k to stage the meeting and bring members
from all over the country, it would seem appropriate to at least
allocate a whole day to it.
13. Fifth, there are legitimate questions about
the diversity of Council. Out of the 118 members, 114 are white
men, two are women and two are non-white. Although there is an
age limit of 75 for membership of Council, it does not apply to
the currently 24 members who were on the Council in 1990. I am
aged 64 and two-thirds of the members of Council are older than
THE FA BOARD
14. The Board comprises the Independent Chairman,
the General Secretary, five members from the professional game
(three from the Premier League; two from the Football League)
and five members from the National Game.
15. I believe that the Board would benefit from
additional independent non-executive input, in line with Burns'
recommendation and good governance practice. I can do no better
than repeat Lord Burns' words on this "The essence of being
independent is that such directors do not face conflicts of interest,
unlike other members of the Board, whether they be executive,
from the national game or from the professional game
independent they are uniquely well-placed to judge difficult issues
from the perspective of the FA, rather than that of the bodies
represented on the FA".
16. Therefore last autumn I asked the Board to
place a proposal to add two additional independent non-executive
directors, on the agenda of the special shareholders meeting called
to abolish the so-called one-year rule (which required the independent
chairman to have not held another role in football in the previous
year). The Board did not agree to do so. I therefore wrote to
all shareholders in an attempt to gain support from the 5% of
shareholders necessary to have it placed on the agenda. I only
succeeded in gaining the support of approximately 1%, although
this may, in part, have been for two reasons. First, Recipients
only had seven days in which to respond, and therefore little
time to consult their own Boards, and second, this was an unusual
process to launch.
17. I have repeated the exercise for the AGM
on 25 May 2011, this time giving respondents three months in which
to reply. I am hopeful that on this occasion I will succeed in
at least getting the issue on to the AGM agenda for debate, although
it would require 75% support from shareholders to make the change.
18. For the reasons outlined above, effective
power on key strategic issues in the FA lies with the Board rather
than the Council and it is almost impossible for the Council to
hold the Board to account in any meaningful way.
19. I believe that there are issues of conflicts
of interest in the composition of the Board. To take one example,
the FA is the governing body of the game which regulates and sanctions
leagues. One of the current Vice-chairmen of the FA is also the
Chairman of the Premier League. I believe this is undesirable
and contrary to the practice of good governance.
20. The Board is based on a representative principle,
with equal numbers of representatives from, the professional and
national games. However, there are some deficiencies in this.
I give two examples.
21. First, the so-called Alliance leagues, the
leagues immediately below the Football League (The Football Conference
and the leagues below it) comprise full-time and part-time professional
clubs. They are however classed as part of the national game,
not the professional game, which seems clearly inappropriate.
The national game representatives elected to the Board all come
from the county FAs who hold the larger voting power, and so the
Alliance, despite their importance to the football pyramid, are
effectively unrepresented on the Board.
22. Second, the six representatives of the wider
football family, myself as the supporter representative, together
with the representatives of the professional players, the managers,
the referees, the Disability Equality Advisory Group and the Race
Equality Advisory Group, are the only category of Council members
who are not represented on the Board, and cannot stand for it,
nominate for it or vote for it. In that sense we are second class
members of Council.
23. Space does not permit the detailed exposition
of alternative models for the FA, but I present the outline of
a possible alternative approach.
24. I support Lord Burns' view that there is
a case for reviewing the potentially confusing situation of having
two oversight bodies, the shareholders and the Council, and aligning
25. I think there is a strong case for the Board
to be comprised of only independent members and executive directors,
along the lines of the Australian Football League Commission as
outlined in the submission from the Football Supporters Federation.
This would remove the conflicts of interest.
26. There is a need for a much smaller body to
effectively represent the range of stakeholders of the game. This
could be called the "Council" or some other name if
the name "Council" were retained for the newly-aligned
shareholding body. If the Board was comprised as outlined above,
this could be a largely advisory body. If the current Board structure
or some variant of it were retained, then this body would, in
my view need to have a strengthened role of holding the Board
to account, as envisaged by Burns.
27. It would be important that such a body could
not be dominated by any single interest group. A possible composition
of such a body might be:
|Football Supporters Federation||1
|National coaching system||2
|Disability Equality Advisory group
|Race Euality Advisory group||1