Robertson: It’s time for change

Robertson insists he was right to brand it the worst-run sport in

the country. He said change is now vital – but that although

legislation to force that change is an option it remains a last

resort. The minister was giving evidence to the culture, media and

sport committee in London, who are carrying out an inquiry into

football governance, and told MPs little had changed on the FA

despite the Burns review of six years ago. Robertson said: “The

fact is when I looked at the corporate governance operations in

sports, particularly the big five, it was noticeably worse than in

any other sport. “There are no independent non-executive directors

despite the Burns review. “Every single one of the directors is a

white male and late middle-aged and there is no one who has played

the game to any reasonable level and no women or anyone from the

ethnic communities. “For the 2018 World Cup bid £15million was

spent and we succeeded solely in garnering one extra vote other

than our own. “The chairman of the Football Foundation [Clive

Sherling] resigned in despair at the politicking going on around

the game. The evidence is pretty clear.” Sherling, a businessman

who was formerly chairman of the Football Licensing Authority,

stepped down earlier this year after just 18 months in the job. At

Tuesday’s evidence session, the MPs were told by a senior UEFA

figure that “turf wars” between the professional and amateur games

had reduced the FA to being one of the weakest national

associations in Europe. William Gaillard, adviser to UEFA president

Michel Platini, said the success of the Premier League and Football

League had overwhelmed the FA. Gaillard said: “There is no doubt

that turf wars have damaged English football and the FA is probably

in a weaker spot than any other FA in Europe – probably the result

of the overwhelming power of professional football especially as

expressed by the Premier League and Football League. “In other

countries there is a more balanced situation. In most other

countries the professional game has a minority position. “English

professional football has been enormously successful in producing

revenues and building up the game and we have to be grateful to the

Premier League and Football League for that. “At the same time this

has not resulted in a better situation for English football in

general and performances of the national team have not been

outstanding.” Gaillard recommended that England should adopt the

football model used in Holland – “an excellent grass-roots model” –

and that the FA should have a technical director. He added: “They

should have a full-time technical director – that’s what exists in

most other good educational models in Europe.” Meanwhile, committee

member Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said the fact

neither the FA nor the Football League knew who owned Leeds was a

“fairly shambolic state of affairs”. The FA have sent a

clarification to the committee admitting they do not know the

identities of the people behind the three offshore trusts that own

the Championship club. Robertson agreed that the rules should be

changed to force transparency of ownership. The minister said:

“It’s patently absurd that people save up every week to go through

the turnstiles and cannot find out who owns the club. “It’s

perfectly reasonable for fans to expect to know who the owners are

of their football club and that’s something that should be

corrected sooner rather than later.”