Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

No change not an option - Robertson

Hugh Robertson

English football's three main governing bodies were on Saturday still digesting a hard-hitting report from MPs that has called for a major overhaul of the way the game is run in this country.

The Football Association, Premier League and Football League have been left in no doubt by Parliament that they have no choice but to change. That followed Friday's publication of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry into football governance, which was highly critical of the administration of the game in this country.

Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson said: "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."

Robertson branded football "the worst governed sport in this country" in January - a month after the Coalition set up the inquiry. The committee did not pull their punches in Friday's report either, describing the current FA Council as not "fit for purpose", insisting it needed radical restructuring.

The committee called for an almost entirely non-partisan "streamlined" 10-strong FA Board and a review of the composition of the FA Council, with members serving for no more than 10 years.

They recommended the establishment of a formal licensing system for clubs to help curb the game's "excesses" with "robust" ownership rules and a "strong fit and proper persons test".

The MPs demanded an end to insolvency rules which encouraged "excessive financial risk-taking" and which, the committee said, would be "illegal" in any other area of business. Concern was expressed at the extent to which clubs were "making losses and operating on the edge of viability" with "escalating wages" driving up the levels of debt.

They said that since the Premier League became the top tier of the game in England, clubs had been "incentivised" to "spend up to the hilt" to win promotion to it or to retain their place there.

They said there should be "complete transparency" around ownership and the terms of any loans made by directors, adding there was "no more blatant an example of lack of transparency than the recent ownership of Leeds United".

The committee also called for the abolition of the Football Creditors rule, which requires the new owners of insolvent clubs to repay all the money owed to key "football creditors" before paying other debts.