Government demands overhaul of English football
Britain’s government demanded Wednesday that the English
Football Association implement wide-ranging governance changes,
including curbs on debt and stricter checks on foreign owners, to
ensure the game’s long-term viability.
Responding to a report by a group of influential legislators,
the government backed concerns that some clubs are living on the
”edge of viability” and pledged to introduce legislation that
will force the FA to make the required changes if not approved by
the end of February.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson said the world’s oldest football
association has ”failed to keep up with the changing pace of the
Robertson wants the FA to seize control of the national game
from the wealthy Premier League as part of a new licensing system
that all clubs must adhere to. The most stringent measures would
seek to address concerns over the ”financial sustainability” of
”Debt per se is not always a bad thing, but it must be
genuinely sustainable and should be assessed as a percentage of
turnover,” the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said.
”There is a legitimate role for the national governing body,
working hand in hand with competition organizers, 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 growth of the Premier League since its inception 20 years
ago has led to half of the 20 clubs now being under foreign
But high debt levels at clubs remain troubling. Liverpool was
rescued from the brink of bankruptcy by the Boston Red Sox
ownership group of John Henry one year ago.
”Because of the inherent attraction of English football clubs
to foreign investors and markets, particularly robust criteria need
to be applied to prospective owners and directors before they are
allowed to own or run a club,” the government said.
As part of reforms for the 2012-13 season, the government wants
an independent body to run the disciplinary process, stripping the
FA of the power to ban players.
It would also order clubs to release players to appear for the
under 17, 19 and 21 sides and not just the senior team in a bid to
help England end a trophy drought stretching back to the 1966 World
”Government is fully committed to ensuring that the changes put
forward by the football authorities make a lasting and substantive
difference,” the response to Parliament said. ”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.”