FA set February deadline to act

The Government on Wednesday published their response to the select

committee report on football governance and called for further

changes to the make-up of the FA board. The FA, working with the

leagues, should take a leading role in monitoring finances as part

of a new licensing system, the response said. Sports minister Hugh

Robertson said: “This is an opportunity for football to sort this

out for itself. “They have until the end of February to do so,

otherwise we will introduce legislation to require them to make the

necessary changes.” Robertson said the football authorities did not

have to agree to follow the select committee’s proposals exactly

but if not then they had to come up with an alternative solution.

“This is an opportunity to come up with something sensible that

tackles the issues that have been raised,” he said. The

Government’s response says there should be a system of licensing

for clubs where financial sustainability and robust checks on club

owners directors are included. The response states: “The Government

shares the concern expressed by the committee at the extent of

losses and the number of clubs on the edge of viability. “Debt per

se is not always a bad thing, but it must be genuinely sustainable

and should be assessed as a percentage of turnover. “Government

believes that there is a legitimate role for the national governing

body, working hand in hand with competition organisers, to ensure

that appropriate and consistent checks and balances are in place to

protect the overall financial integrity of the national game and

its long-term viability. “The recent moves by the Football League

to work towards a break-even rule in the Championship are a welcome

indication of the appetite amongst many clubs for a change.” The

response adds: “The Government expects that the issue of financial

sustainability should be addressed as part of the recommendations

on the new licensing model.” The report makes clear the

Government’s threat to bring in legislation if reforms are not

made. It states: “We expect the football authorities to work

together to agree proposals, including plans for implementation, by

29 February 2012. The new board can then agree the way forward for

the remainder of the recommendations, ideally for implementation

for the start of the 2012-13 football season. “If that does not

happen the Government will introduce a legal requirement on the

Football Association to implement the appropriate governance

clauses by the swiftest possible means.” The Government’s proposals

also call for reform of FA board. They propose the new structure

should be made up of chairman, general secretary, two further FA

executives “bringing wider football expertise”, two independent

non-executive directors and two each from the professional and

national game. The FA Council’s role should be changed so that

committees report to the FA board instead, with a maximum limit of

eight years for council members. The football authorities should

look at ways to encourage more fans on clubs’ boards, say the

Government, and clubs should be forced to release players for

England duty at all age levels from under-17 upwards. A joint FA,

Premier League and Football League statement said they would take

some time to decide on action. The statement said: “We shall now

take time to consider the department’s response as we formulate

what the most appropriate actions might be. “The FA, the Premier

League, The Football League and representatives of the national

game are already engaged in this process and are committed to

keeping the minister and his department informed of our progress.”