Belfast Telegraph

PFA boss joins Kick It Out in putting boot into FA's reform plans

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke's carefully constructed reform plan is in danger of unravelling before it even reaches sports minister Tracey Crouch after the Professional Footballers' Association joined Kick It Out in criticising the proposed changes.

Clarke launched his plan for an overhaul of how the sport is run in England on Monday, claiming it was a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to make the national game better.

But Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley wasted little time in dismissing the reform package as a "sham" for failing to properly address the under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voices within football's leadership.

And on Tuesday, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor issued his own stinging critique of Clarke's proposals.

In a statement on the union's website, Taylor said: "The proposed new governance reforms of the FA shows a complete disrespect for key stakeholders in the game - principally the players (PFA), the managers (League Managers Association), referees and supporters.

"We are referred to as 'not aligned' to the professional game or national game, which shows a complete lack of understanding and respect for the very people who provide their income.

"Their only transparency is their lack of diversity and such proposals do nothing to bring us in line with the rest of the world or alter the perception of lacking inclusion and being disconnected 'dinosaurs'."

Control of English football has long been a balancing act between the often competing forces of the professional clubs and leagues on one side, and the 'blazers' of the amateur game on the other.

After decades of refusing to move with the times, the FA has come under extreme pressure to change, with MPs passing a motion of 'no confidence' in its ability to reform itself last month.

This followed a threat from grassroots funding agency Sport England to withhold development money from governing bodies that fail to meet Crouch's governance code, a set of best-practice rules for running sports bodies the unreformed FA would not meet.

Clarke, who has only been in the job for six months, has said he will quit if he fails to deliver the changes Crouch wants.

That looked unlikely on Monday, when he confidently told reporters he had travelled the length and breadth of the country, listening to what the county FAs, PFA, LMA and supporters groups wanted.

He described the reform package as a "nine out of 10" in terms of the sports minister's wishlist and praised the game's various stakeholders for realising the need to compromise and going far beyond what he thought was possible when he took over.

Ouseley, however, is deeply unimpressed with a guarantee that only two of the 11 additions to the 122-strong FA council will be BAME candidates and no mention of a non-white representative on the FA board.

The veteran campaigner for diversity and equality said: " These reforms will no doubt satisfy those who are making demands on the FA, such as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Sport England and UK Sport, but these long-overdue reforms won't satisfy minority groups.

"Until we see real change and inclusion in these positions of power, changes are likely to just be superficial. After decades of campaigning, that is a crying shame.

"It seems likely that the FA's board will be redesigned but, without proper representation of minority groups, I would not trust these bodies to fully deliver transparent practices and the changes are likely to be a sham."

The key elements of Clarke's plan are reducing the board from 12 members to 10, with three of those positions reserved for women from 2018 and a cap of three terms of three years for board members.

Life and senior vice-presidents on the much-maligned council will lose their voting rights and gradually be phased out, with a 16-year term limit under discussion and the 11 new members intended to better represent the diverse nature of English football.

The next stage in the process is an FA council meeting on March 21. The board will then meet a week later, before the council votes on the reforms on April 3. If those hurdles are cleared, the package will be put to all the game's shareholders at the annual general meeting on May 18.

The interventions of Ouseley and Taylor, however, have cast doubt on what appeared to be a done deal and will no doubt have raised a few wry smiles from Clarke's predecessors, who have half a century of frustration between them when it comes to making meaningful changes at the FA.

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