MPs call on Football Association to make changes

The Football Association has been urged by MPs to make big changes in the way the game is run in England.

A report by MPs stresses the need to address the financial instability and the levels of debt in football.

John Whittingdale MP said: "Significant changes need to be made to the way the game is run to secure the future of England's football heritage."

Portsmouth became the first Premier League club to go into administration in February 2010.

"No one doubts the success of the Premier League in revitalising English football," Whittingdale said.

"But it has been accompanied by serious financial problems throughout the football league pyramid."

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committeeexternal-link [chaired by Whittingdale] has recommended that more rigorous measures should be introduced to promote a sustainable business and should underpin self-regulation measures introduced by the Premier League and the Football League.

The report also suggests that a strong fit and proper persons test is consistently applied, and that the selling of a club's ground should not take place unless it is in the club's interest.

The Committee report also said that "there is no more blatant an example of lack of transparency than the recent ownership history of Leeds United" and has urged the FA to investigate if necessary with the assistance of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Other recommendations include an end to the Football Creditor's Rule, an FA review of expenditure at grass roots level, and a restructuring of the FA board.

"The FA is the organisation for the job, but it has some way to go getting its own house in order before it can tackle the problems in the English game, and address the future," Whittingdale added.

"We need a reformed FA to oversee and underpin a rigorous and consistent club licensing system and robust rules on club ownership, which should be transparent to supporters."

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's findings now pass to Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, who will co-ordinate the Government's response and relay to football's governing bodies which recommendations it would like to see adopted.

"We will look carefully at the report in detail before setting out the Government's plans in our response," Robertson said.

"But it's clear that no change in the areas of governance, financial regulation, transparency and the involvement of supporters is not an option.

"There is a moment here for the football authorities to respond positively and decisively to both the content and spirit of the report and we will be working with them to achieve this," he added.

Shadow Sports Minister Ian Austin was equally supportive of the measures and recommendations made in Friday's report.

"The game needs strong leadership on governance issues, transparency for every professional club and proper involvement for supporters and fans because giving fans a bigger stake in their clubs and a greater say in the decisions which are made by football's governing bodies should be an integral part of modern football," Austin said.

"In the period ahead it is important that the FA build on reforms to be considered by their shareholders next month and the Premier League embraces the need for change by making a clear commitment to improved governance arrangements."

Some of the recommendations made may not meet with the Premier League's approval, but the corporation have said they will await the Government's response before reacting to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's findings.

FA General Secretary Alex Horne (left) and FA Chairman David Bernstein
David Bernstein took on the role of FA Chairman in December 2010

"The CMS Select Committee has undertaken a lengthy and considered inquiry into the governance structures of English football, one we were happy to contribute to with both written and oral evidence," the Premier League said in a statement.

"We, along with the other football authorities, will now consider the report's contents and await the Sports Minister's response before taking a view on the recommendations and any part the Premier League may have to play in implementing them."

Supporters Direct,external-link which gives advice and funding to fans wanting to enhance representation and set up trusts at clubs, has welcomed the report into football governance in England.

Brian Burgess of Supporters Direct said: "The Select Committee's inquiry has provided a welcome opportunity to consider the challenges facing football in this country and hear the views of the fans.

"With 52 clubs who are or have been in the top 92 having suffered from insolvency events since 1992 it is clear that things cannot carry on as they are.

"We look forward to working with the Government, the FA, the Premier League and the Football League to develop practical solutions to respond to the report's recommendations," Burgess added.