MPs back fans’ push for FA reform

Westminster CC Gordon Wrigley7

MPs yesterday passed a motion of no confidence in the FA’s ability to reform itself and backed recommendations to increase supporter representation on football’s governing body.

The motion, proposed by chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Damian Collins MP, called on the Government to bring forward legislation forcing reform of FA governance.

During the debate, MPs criticised the FA for failing to show progress on reform, as well as its lack of diversity at board and council level.

Speaking in the Commons chamber, Clive Efford MP said: “The historic construction of this organisation clearly needs reform. I favour the Football Supporters’ Federation’s recommendations.

“We should have fans’ representatives on the board of the FA.

“The time has also come for fans’ reps to be on the boards of football clubs.

“They are an early warning system for problems that exist in our game. It is the fans we turn to when we look to save clubs that fall into difficulties. They are of the communities from which those clubs have sprung.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP had dire warnings for the FA – saying it risked losing public money and face intervention if it did not offer adequate reform in the next six weeks.

Referring to the support from the public purse that the FA receives for grassroots football and to support bids to host international tournaments, she said “It is up to the FA if it wishes to play Russian roulette with public money,” she told MPs. “If we want better governance of football across the world, let it begin here.”

Other MPs, including Blackpool's Gordon Marsden MP and Peter Dowd (Bootle), backed recommendations proposed by the FSF to increase the number of supporter representatives on the FA council to five and to have a supporter representative on the FA board.

Jason McCartney MP said: “That supporter representation could help increase in the diversity of the top of the decision-making levels in English football.

“Fans are serious about reform. It is now time for the FA’s executive board and council to crack on and deliver those reforms.”

The backbench motion aimed to increase pressure on the FA to reform its board and council in line with the new official code for sports governing bodies.

After the debate, FSF chairman Malcolm Clarke, the sole supporter representative on the FA Council, pointed out that the council had stood up to “rampant commercialism within the game” and protected fans’ interests in the past, such as rejecting the proposed Hull Tigers name change – but was an imperfect body in need of reform.

“We're very pleased to see so many MPs back our proposals for a minimum of five fan representatives on the FA Council, representation on the FA Board, and increased diversity,” Malcolm said.

“Supporters are integral to the health of our national sport yet are still shockingly under-represented in the FA hierarchy - there is only one supporter representative on the FA Council, yet the Armed Forces and the Oxbridge universities have five between them.”

All sports governing bodies must produce a plan to government on how they propose to meet the requirements of the new Sports Governance Code, to be delivered by April.

FA chairman Greg Clarke will be trying to get a package of reforms agreed by the existing structures of the FA; until then the FSF will continue to press for fundamental reform.

Thanks to Gordon Wrigley for the image used in this story. Reproduced here under Creative Commons license.