LONDON (Reuters) - The English Football Association was warned “the clock is ticking” after a motion of no confidence into its ability to reform itself was passed during a British Parliamentary debate on Thursday.
While Sports Minister Tracey Crouch ruled out immediate intervention into the running of the world’s oldest soccer federation, she warned that it was in danger of losing 30 million pounds of public funding and that legislation could be brought in to force change.
Crouch said the current model of the 154-year-old institution “does not stand up to scrutiny”.
“Reform is required,” Crouch told lawmakers, who described the organisation variously as “shambolic” and “ancient”.
“But I repeat that the governing body has every opportunity to bring that around itself. Therefore I believe a vote of no confidence in the FA today is six weeks premature.
“But they should be aware the clock is ticking fast and that failure to reform will lead not just to the withdrawal of public money but further consideration of legislative, regulatory and financial options to bring about the change needed.”
The motion was tabled by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee which argued that the FA had failed to demonstrate that it was willing to improve governance since the government issued new guidelines six months ago.
Chief among the criticisms of the FA are a lack of diversity and a failure to represent the modern game.
The FA’s 122-member council contains just eight women and only four from ethnic minorities. The vast majority are aged over 60, with 12 in their 80s.
Several lawmakers supported calls for fans’ groups to have representation on the council.
Clive Efford said the FA was “extraordinarily weak at times and unable to wield any power over the Premier League and Football League.”
FA chairman Greg Clarke has to present a programme of reforms, aimed at bringing the organisation into line with the Government’s Code of Governance, by the end of March.
He has vowed to stand down if he fails.
“Greg Clarke said if it doesn’t comply he would have failed and he would resign,” Crouch said.
“It is true he would have failed but it would be as a consequence of his own board and council failing him and not because the government set an unreasonable challenge of achieving good governance.
“It’s up to the FA if they wish to play Russian roulette with public money. They will lose.”
Damian Collins, chair of the select committee, said the FA was in “stoppage time trailing 1-0”.
“No change is no option,” he said. “Reform will be delivered to them if they don’t reform themselves.”
As lawmakers aired a variety of grievances in a near-empty chamber, the FA took to social media to champion the various grassroots schemes it has supported across the country.
“We accept that our governance needs reform and that many of the points to be raised in today’s debate are valid,” it said in a statement posted on its website.
“But we strongly reject the allegation that we are not performing our duties.”
Clarke needs to get his reforms, including the addition of two female directors to the board this year, past the FA’s council by the time the new code comes into effect in April.
Former chairman Greg Dyke said on Wednesday the “old men” blocking change at the FA are “stupid enough” to fight reforms — a view echoed by lawmaker Nigel Huddleston.
“I sense his hands are tied and a sense of institutional inertia pervades the governance of football in this country,” he said.
Clarke, a former Leicester City chairman, reacted to the debate, saying he respected the opinions of Parliament.
“As previously stated we remain committed to reforming the governance at the FA to the agreed timescale of the minister,” he said on Twitter.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis