Owners face increased scrutiny in football governance revamp

David Bernstein
David Bernstein

The suitability of prospective club owners and directors will be put under scrutiny by a new regulatory body set up to help improve football governance.

It is one of several proposals agreed by the Football Association, Football League and Premier League to improve decision-making across the game.

The plans are a response to recent Parliamentary pressure for major reform in football administration.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson had said it was the UK's "worst-governed sport".

But, following the unveiling of the proposals, Robertson said he was pleased the football authorities have responded "positively" to a series of demands made by the Government.

He added: "The authorities must keep their rules under review to ensure clubs are on a sure footing going forward.

"I would like to see football implement these reforms as soon as possible for the good of the game."

The demands were made in response to the Commons select committee report on football governance.

The report by MPs said the level of debt in the English game needed to be addressed, with John Whittingdale MP insisting that "significant changes need to be made to the way the game is run to secure the future of England's football heritage".

Twelve clubs, most notably former Premier League side Portsmouth and three-time English champions Leeds United, have entered administration in the past five years.

The governing bodies hope the FA Regulatory Authority (FARA) will go some way provide greater clarity than football's much-derided fit-and-proper-person test.

FARA will also deal with disciplinary procedures for on- and off-field offences, as well as considering applications by clubs to move grounds.

The paperexternal-link published by the FA on Friday also aims at "inspiring success for future England teams" and producing a "strong professional game" in England.

The FA promises to reduce the size of its board from 14 to 12 or fewer by the 2013-14 season and make clear the division of responsibilities of the board and committees.

The paper said: "It was evident to the football authorities, even prior to the commencement of the select committee inquiry, that there was a need to clarify the roles, responsibility and accountability for the development of policy and its implementation across the whole game.

"A clear picture was required of how each decision is made, by whom, to what objective, and through what process."

FA chairman David Bernstein hopes the proposals will satisfy critics of the state of the sport's governance.

He said: "[The Government] urged football to get together in the interests of the wider game and it is with some pride that I chaired a body working together in a good spirit, in a strategic and collegiate way.

"It is a good statement."

The football authorities have also announced a club licensing system from grassroots upwards that will provide a framework to make sure clubs operate within already agreed rules.

And they insist they will work with the Government to remove legal obstacles that, in some cases, are preventing supporters from obtaining shares or other ownership interests in clubs.