A House of Commons debate that took place on Thursday saw the passing of a vote of no confidence by MPs that agreed that the organisation was unable to reform itself. The 20 MPs present in the House of Commons who passed the motion unanimously. The motion was opposed by Sport Minister Tracey Crouch who warned the governing body that if a series of reforms were not agreed upon by April, they would not receive government money.
In a letter released on Tuesday night in anticipation of Thursday’s debate, FA Chairman Greg Clarke stated that he will resign from his position if the government fails to support the organisation’s proposed reforms. Clarke stated that the game’s governing body is committed to reforming but denies that the organisation is failing. In his letter, he admitted “Our governance needs changing. We do need to be more diverse, more open about decision-making and we do need to better represent those playing the game.” Following, “Change won’t be easy, but I am confident it will happen – and it will be substantial. Delivering real change is my responsibility and I firmly believe this is critical for the future of the game.”
In the recent past, the FA has been criticised for its conservatism, lack of diversity and inability to change. Currently, the governing body is comprised of predominantly white men, with Crouch threatening to withdraw £30m-£40m of government funding if the organisation fails to modernise. Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee chairman Damien Collins said that the FA has spent 50 years discussing reform without change and said that now is the time for decisive action, stating “No change is no option.” Collins then humorously added: “The FA, to use a football analogy, are not only in extra time, they are at the end of extra time, in ‘Fergie Time’.”
After such prolonged criticism, the select committee have published two reports in recent years calling for an overhaul of the FA’s board and council. Labour MP Keith Vaz has commented on the FA’s lack of diversity saying, “It is important that Parliament sends out a message on diversity – a quarter of all professional footballs are black, however only 17of the 92 top clubs have an ethnic minority person in a senior coaching role.”
Regardless of the poor turnout, it seemed that the few MPs that attended the debate agreed with one another, calling for greater diversity on the council, independent directors and fan representation on the board. Concerns regarding professional clubs’ money were discussed, especially within the Premier League.
CMS select committee member, Andrew Bingham, commented on one particular football downfall, “The issues of Sam Allardyce, who manages the (England) team for 67 days, one game, walks away with allegedly around £1m, it is destroying people’s faith in football.” In the same vein, Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston said “I have a great deal of respect for Greg Clarke but I sense his hands are tied and a sense of institutional inertia pervades the governance of football in this country.”
Crouch has made it crystal clear that if these reforms failed to come in time, the government would not hesitate to consider legislation however, confusingly, she also claimed that this debate may have come prematurely.