Football Governance - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Ian Watmore

I am writing this note in advance of my appearance before your Committee tomorrow.

Coincidentally, it was a year ago tomorrow that my resignation from the FA was first made public. I have not discussed football in public since, preferring instead to concentrate on my new role in the Cabinet Office and Number 10 helping the Coalition Government.

I should like to start by saying I have no personal animosity towards the FA or anyone within it. They were kind enough to invite me in to their fold as CEO, and it was my choice, and my choice alone, to leave the job a year later.

But I am pleased that you are considering what to recommend to the Government in order to create a model for football governance in England, one that is fit for the 21st Century. Whether the football public in England play, coach, referee, spectate or participate in some other way, they surely deserve a better system than we have today.

I should also like to acknowledge the staff at the FA who suffer daily under the public perception that the FA is dysfunctional and incompetent. However critical I think you must be about the governance of the FA, this must not apply to the staff.

In my experience, the staff at the FA are talented, hard working, modern in outlook, energetic and diverse, relatively lowly paid, passionate about what they do, and great fun to work with. They achieve so much, often in unsung ways, and I can't speak too highly of them.

It is obviously for you to decide what to recommend based upon the evidence you receive. But central to your recommendations should be that football in England need not be a constant set of battles between the main protagonists. For example, it ought to be possible to have:

a strong FA and a thriving Premier League;

successful, multinational Clubs and winning England teams; and

global leadership for men's football and a fast growing and popular game for women.

In my evidence, I will argue that the role of Government and Parliament at this time should be threefold:

to set strategic objectives for the game as a whole;

to create an FA that is totally independent of its so called vested interests; and

to give the FA (and other football bodies) clarity over its role

I have listed the main points that I think should be recommended under each of these headings.

But if there is one recommendation of mine that supersedes all others, it would be to create a totally Independent FA Board to lead the whole game in this country, free to spend its money as it thinks fit, and with full transparency to the public.

Once the Committee has reported, its recommendations must then be implemented in full and at pace. The menu should be seen as a table d'hote menu, rather than á la carte. As we found after the Burns review, allowing each recommendation to be considered on its own and then either ignored or implemented in a piecemeal way, leads to glacial progress or distorted change.

Even if people want to go back to the original Burns recommendations, time has moved on, and just doing Burns would, in my judgement, be insufficient. We now need to be in a Burns-plus era—with full independence for the FA Board and staff from the FA Council and the professional game, with control over how it spends its own funds. If the Committee needs to be convinced, just imagine how little Ofcom would achieve with Sky, BT and the BBC on its Board?

Can an Independent FA really be created without a footballing civil war? The Balkanised state of football governance today might suggest not, and almost certainly not without external intervention from Parliament. But we have tried other means, and few believe that what we have ended up with is remotely fit for purpose.

On this basis I have concluded that the FA Council should give substantial further decision making ground to the Independent Board and the FA Executive. The FA Councillors from the counties are an extraordinarily decent group of people who have put their lives into football for minimal or no financial reward. There are many other Councillors, such as the Chair of the LMA, and the CEO of the PFA, whom I also admire greatly. They collectively have much wisdom; they have a major role to play on many fronts, and should always be consulted widely by the FA Board.

I have also seen references to "the governing bodies" to include the Premier League and UEFA. There are, in fact, only two governing bodies in any country playing football—FIFA and the local version of the FA. It is essential to reassert that principle of football governance in England. The Premier League is a fantastic global competition, but it is not a governing body. UEFA is a confederation of national associations. Both use their competition rules to influence behaviour from their participant clubs. But this should not be confused with the strategic and regulatory role of the world and national associations.

Finally, I have recommended that the FA funding formula be ended, so that all monies earned by the FA (and not spent on its direct operations and competitions) can be channelled into football development and not distributed 50:50 with the Premier League/Football League as at present. This money would be under the control of the Independent FA. It would primarily be channelled through the national game and the National Football Centre to meet strategic objectives, but also used to help fund the contribution from referees, players and managers, and geographically strategic clubs in localities not well served by top Clubs.

Each time the reputation of the FA appears to hit rock bottom, the next year it starts to drill. It is time to reverse that trend.

The FA will be 150 years old in 2013. For its special anniversary, the FA should be celebrating an exciting new future, rather than apologising for the previous 50 years of hurt, as Baddiel and Skinner might put it. With your help, the new Chairman, David Bernstein, can lead the FA back into the sunlight.

I look forward to the Select Committee tomorrow.

1.  Overall Strategic Football Objectives:

(1)  Strong, unified governance for the whole game, respected in its own country and influential abroad.

(2)  Thriving national game for all ages, abilities, gender, ethnicity.

(3)  Winning England teams—men's, women's, all ages, other eg disabled—with a strong pipeline of playing and coaching talent.

(4)  World leading sustainable Premier League clubs for men and Super League clubs for women.

(5)  Sustainable strength in depth for other professional and semi-professional leagues.

(6)  Outstanding, accessible and safe stadia, pitches and other facilities.

(7)  Investing in the future of the English game—skills, coaching, refereeing, international relations, facilities, science, medicine, digital, technology...

2.  FA Governance Recommendations:

(1)  Board of FA to be totally independent of its interested parties—ie no "representative" or "vested interest" delegates on the Board.

(2)  Board of FA to contain (say) six voting Executives—(Note 1.)........Plus (say) six voting Non Executives, totally independent of current club, league, county or other footballing interests—(Note 2.)

(3)  Current FA funding model to be ended—so that all monies earned by FA and not spent on its direct operations and competitions to be channelled into football development through (primarily) the national game, National Football Centre, LMA, PFA and strategically located clubs, and not split 50:50 with the Premier League and Football League as at present.

(4)  FA Council to cede more decision making to Independent Board and FA Executive—but still to be consulted widely and play significant representative role in international tournaments, in disciplinary hearings, at Wembley, at National Game finals etc and be great honour for all who achieve Councillor status.

(5)  Primary governance role to be reasserted for FA direct through to FIFA. Premier and Football Leagues are not governing bodies. Similarly UEFA is Confederation, not an intermediate governance layer between FA and FIFA.

(6)  Board and staff of FA to be representative of the football population it serves and to be diverse in age, female, BME and other relevant terms.

(7)  Independent nominations body to appoint FA Chairman and assist in Non Exec Appointments.

(8)  Create influential, but non-binding, FA Stakeholder Group(s) with representative delegates—eg Supporters, Club owners, Players, Managers and coaches, Referees, Media, Sponsors, Diversity.

(9)  Current Football Regulatory Authority to move inside FA—to set regulatory policy etc -under the guidance of the Independent Board.

(10)  Current Compliance Unit to move outside FA—thus not controlled by the FA Board—headed by independent football Commissioner—to make decisions about breaches of discipline and regulations, apply sanctions, and hear appeals etc.

(11)  Total transparency of operations, finances, policies, decisions... probably scrutinised by Football Ombudsman or similar reporting periodically to Parliament and the public.

Note 1—probably CEO, MD Club England, Men's Football Director, Women's Football Director, Football Services/Regulation Director, Head of National Game and be attended by finance director and company secretary.

Note 2—probably Independent Chairman, Independent Football Leader, Education and Skills, Marketing/Communications, Regulatory/Legal, Finance/Accounting/Commercial (all experienced Board members from football, business or public service).

3.  Clarity of role and remit for FA: eg:

(1)  To govern and set the regulatory framework for all football in England, so as to achieve Strategic Objectives above.

(2)  To participate positively in FIFA and UEFA over the long term to support the interests of all English football, and assist in the global development and administration of the game.

(3)  To part fund and assist the national game (pretty much as per today's National Game strategy).

(4)  To promote respect and diversity throughout the game—kicking out racism, sexism, disability discrimination, homophobia, faith discrimination.

(5)  To develop the managers and coaches and coaching/playing philosophy of the future (pretty much as per new St. George's Park vision).

(6)  To develop the referees and assistants of the future at all levels of the game.

(7)  To monitor and grow the pipeline of playing talent for all the national teams—all ages, genders, disability etc.

(8)  To manage and support all England teams in competition and friendlies.

(9)  To run FA competitions collaboratively with other competition organisers eg PL, FL, UEFA.

(10)  To manage the national stadium—with football (not rugby or rock concerts) at its heart.

(11)  To secure specialist investment in the future of the English game—skills, facilities, science, medicine, digital, technology.

March 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 29 July 2011