Written evidence submitted by the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport |
1. The Department is pleased to respond to the
Select Committee's call for evidence on their Inquiry into the
governance of football.
2. The Inquiry is a valuable opportunity to take
stock across a range of issues that affect the way that football
is run and to ensure that our national game is in the best possible
place to make the most of its strengths and to address the challenges
it faces. We look forward to following the Committee's Inquiry
and responding to their recommendations. We will be happy to support
the Committee in any way it feels appropriate.
3. It is our honour and privilege to have the
eyes of the sporting world turned firmly on us as we build towards
what we hope to be one of the best ever Olympic and Paralympic
Games. Such attention brings many responsibilities. One of those
is to ensure that the organisation of sport in this countryand
not just the traditional Olympic sportsis fully fit for
purpose. Working with the sports themselves to ensure that the
governance arrangements are as strong and effective as possible,
that they reflect the best possible practice, and that they reflect
the identity and expectations of a modern population, is a key
part of responding successfully to that attention.
4. It is not for any Government to run sport
or to micro-manage its future. All sportnot least footballis
best run by dedicated professionals working within strong and
effective independent and accountable organisations.
5. At the same time Government, by virtue of
public expectation and through the legitimate interest in the
use of public funds, has a genuine role to play in ensuring that
those sports organisations are working together effectively for
the long term good of the game. The Department has committed to
addressing the issues of governance and supporter involvement
within its Business Plan.
6. There is little question that football in
this country has a strong claim to be one of the greatest national
sporting and commercial success stories of the last two decades.
To think back to where football was at the end of the 1980s in
terms of violence, racism, the state of grounds and the quality
of supporter experience is to be shocked by the comparison with
today's game. To get where we are todaynot without problems,
but demonstrably in a completely different placehas been
the result of the dedication, skill and professionalism of people
in the Football Associations, the Leagues, of supporters, players,
the police, anti-racism campaigners and many others.
7. Those changes have been part of bringing about
the kind of stability and popularity that has enabled professional
and amateur football to thrive.
8. In Wembley we now have a genuinely world-class
national stadium that bears comparison with the best in the world.
In time this will be matched by the National Football Centre at
Burton which we hope will provide the centre for coaching and
national development for years to come. At junior level the England
Men's Under 17 team are European Champions, the men's and women's
Under 21 teams reached the European Championship Finals. The women's
professional game has been supported by the FA with the introduction
this summer of a new Super League.
9. The 2010-11 Premier League season is shaping
up to be the one of the most competitive ever. The proceeds of
the sale of television rights has enabled over £110 million
to be invested in community good causes since 2007, helping engage
with around 14 million people. The Premier League has become the
most watched sporting league anywhere in the world, followed by
over 500 million people in 202 countries. In the process the Premier
League has been given a Queen's Award for Enterprise for their
contribution to international trade.
10. The Football League attracted over 17 million
attendances last year. The Championship is the 4th best attended
football competition in Europeahead of the top leagues
in Italy, the Netherlands and France. The League has recently
signed a new £264 million three year television deal and
the Football League Trust has reached over 1.6 million young people
under 16 with programmes to encourage sporting participation.
11. That success is not accidental. It is down
to the hard work of those in the Football Association, the Premier
League and the Football League and many others. There is no doubt
that they do not always get the credit they deserve.
12. At the same time, there is absolutely no
room for self-satisfaction. The struggle against racism and violence
is never completely won, but must be an ongoing campaign. And
the rapid commercial changes of the last two decades, together
with supporters' increasing expectations, has brought new challenges
in terms of financial sustainability as clubs chase success; the
genuine involvement of supporters; the ability for the football
authorities to work effectively together to regulate appropriately;
the development of new young players; and the high expectations
of the national team. Those are challenges enough, even putting
aside last year's England FIFA World Cup disappointments, first
in South Africa and then in Zurich.
13. The football authorities in this country
are not complacent. In a number of cases they have already responded
to the new challenges by making potentially significant changes
to the way that the game is regulated at the highest levels. The
various competition regulators themselves will undoubtedly provide
the Committee with evidence of how they are toughening-up the
regulation of the clubs that play in them. The changes in relation
to the ownership of clubs, squad size and make-up, closer scrutiny
of financial transactions, and the growing interest in putting
in place effective approaches to ensuring that football clubs
live within their means demonstrates that the will to respond
to the new challenges of football is not lacking. Separately UEFA's
introduction of what has been termed "Financial Fair Play"
rules for their own competitions has also undoubtedly acted to
shift the terms of the debate and expectations on the proper role
of competition regulators.
14. At the same time, as the Select Committee
notes in its Call for Evidence, there remain genuine concerns
amongst supporters, and others close to the game, about whether
the authorities are always in the best possible position to turn
their will to respond to the new challenges into the kind of practical
action that will make the greatest possible difference.
15. Despite the undoubted success story of football
in this country there are a number of areas which may be fertile
ground for the Select Committee's Inquiry. The Department has
picked out four particular issues on which there may be a view
that the time is now right for further action.
All sporting organisations need strong, effective and appropriate
senior-level governance arrangements. The kinds of structures
and membership that are appropriate will vary from body to body,
and from time to time, depending on their roles and responsibilities.
What does not change is the need for the top-level governance
arrangements to be robust, to avoid unnecessary conflicts of interest
and to include the right levels of independent challenge and expertise.
In our view, modern boards should have eight to ten members and
The football family is a complex one and the relationship between
the bodies and the governance structures is similarly complex.
For example, it is unlikely that many supporters will fully understand
the process for confirming new regulations or changing rules,
or the degree of challenge to which any changes may be subject.
In the current climate, the judgements taken on the regulations
about the servicing of debt, the sustainability of that debt and
the penalties which should be incurred for failing to abide by
the rules, are understandably of significant concern to supporters
and others. The perception of a lack of clarity in those areas
is likely to reduce confidence in the decisions themselves, regardless
of their effectiveness. We would be particularly interested in
the Select Committee's view on such issues and whether the current
arrangements are fully fit for purpose. In our view, decision-making
structures should be transparent, understandable and open to external
It is inevitable and unsurprising that a significant proportion
of the current concerns relate to football's relationship with
its supporters. Rightly or wrongly, there is a concern that it
is generally harder for supporters to be closely involved in their
club than in the past and that there is not yet strong enough
encouragement for supporters' organisations. We would be particularly
interested in views on whether there are inadvertent restrictions
on supporter involvement in either club or league regulation and
what practical steps can be taken to better encourage meaningful
engagement. There appears to be a common feeling that Supporters
Trust ownership has become the last resort for clubs which are
on the verge of dissolution. Whether there are effective means
of enabling appropriate engagement and information sharing earlier
in the process may be a fertile area of interest. Equally interesting
would be a view on the value of opportunities to incentivise supporter
involvement via a different approach to the treatment of any Government-facing
game. It is understandable that given
the recent successes of the England Under 17 and Under 21 teams,
there is growing optimism about how this will translate to the
senior team in the years ahead. Our view is that improvements
in governance could have an important effect in ensuring that
the football authorities are always set up to give the national
teams the best possible chance of success. For example, it is
widely acknowledged that English football still has some way to
go to improving the way it develops young talent in comparison
with our major European competitors. In particular, in terms of
the numbers of fully qualified coaches we have, and an overall
strategy for ensuring the right level of skills and expertise
is passed on from the earliest possible ages. Ensuring that each
organisation takes a hard and thorough look together to ensure
there are no inadvertent barriers within the current processes
or regulations in terms of coaching, player development or availability
would be an important step in helping to turn our expectations
for the national teams into reality. 16. I believe that, by working
together, the football authorities have the incentive, powers
and skills to be able to respond effectively to the new challenges.
16. I want to be clear again that it is not for
Government to run any sport. However there is an appropriate role
for Government in encouraging the authorities in either this task
or altering the landscape. Where there are challenges or recommendations
that properly fall to Government then we intend to address these
17. The Department looks forward to reading and
responding to the Select Committee's findings and recommendations.
In the meantime, we will be glad to assist the Committee in whatever
ways are appropriate.