LONDON: English football risks running into another confrontation with FIFA if governance reform is enforced by the government, as five former senior bosses of the Football Association have urged.
Last month the FA knowingly courted disciplinary action by the world governing body by flouting a rule barring the display of insignia when players wore a poppy emblem on their armbands in an Armistice Day World Cup qualifier against Scotland.
Now former FA chairmen Greg Dyke, David Bernstein and Lord David Triesman plus former chief executives David Davies and Alex Horne have complained in a joint statement that it has defaulted on restructuring.
The criticism of the FA is ironic considering the amount of criticism which FA leaders levelled at FIFA after revelations of its various corruption scandals. FIFA embarked on a reform process which the FA has yet to mirror.
A letter from the quintet has asked the British Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee to propose legislation to reform the FA.
They have complained, among other things, that the FA is outdated, held back by “elderly white men” and unable to counter the power of the Premier League.
The snag on the path to government-enforced change is that FIFA statutes, adopted by the FA, warn of disciplinary action – including suspension from all international competition for the national team and clubs – over government interference.
Among the points made by the five former FA executives are:
The Premier League’s financial power has a knock-on effect “right through the football pyramid”;
The FA is compelled to contribute tens of millions of pounds to the Premier League, rather than the grassroots of the game;
The majority of those in senior positions are under-qualified to deal with the complexities of the FA structures; and
The FA Board is neither an independent board nor an independent regulator.
The letter says a “focused intervention” may “move us to redressing the woeful lack of English players or managers and the embarrassing failures of our national team for the past 50 years”.
It also highlights the domination of the Premier League (EPL) because of its “financial might”, and added that “worse still, there are some 25 life vice-presidents on the FA Council – all elderly white men – who do not represent anyone but block even the most minor of changes”.
The five said: “It is little wonder that English football is out of balance. The FA has neither the modernity of approach nor independence required to counter the EPL juggernaut, or to modernise its own governance.”
The quintet agreed with the findings of the Culture, Media and Sport committee’s reports on football governance in 2011 and 2013, which concluded that the FA needed urgent reform.
They added: “The FA has been given more than enough time to self-reform and therefore we now ask that parliament take this on board, recognise that further promises of change are not serious, and legislate as necessary, including the appointment of a regulator to achieve the changes that are so desperately needed.”
CMS chairman Damian Collins MP, in a BBC interview, said: “We feel now that time has run out. We no longer have any confidence that the FA can or will reform itself.
“We now have an invitation from former chairmen of the FA to act in the best interests of football and to legislate to restructure the FA and in many ways give the power back to people who play football.”