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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Government Request Changes to Football Governance

Today the government has released their response to the Culture, Media and Sport committee inquiry into football governance.

Essentially the message is clear; put your house in order before March 2012 or we’ll do it for you. The highlights include recommendations on ownership, transparency of ownership and the need to engage with supporters groups through holding Annual General Meetings. Further highlights can be found below and the full report can be downloaded at the end.

With regard to the reform of the FA board the government understands there needs to be further change in the overall composition of the Board to allow it to function as effectively as possible.

The government supports the strong recommendations on the reform of the FA Council surrounding the changes to tenure and the format of meetings; the government urges them to consider seriously introducing such changes

On debt in the game, and its causes, the government believes that there is a legitimate role for the national governing body, working hand in hand with competition organisers, to ensure that appropriate and consistent checks and balances are in place to protect the overall financial integrity of the national game and its long-term viability.

The report recommends that the FA should continue to press FIFA to provide an international solution to the concerns surrounding football agents in relation to how they appear to operate and the potential consequences for conflicts of interest and transfer fee and salary inflation.

The government approach to the new UEFA financial fair play regulations is that it is a welcome and significant step forward. At the same time they support the Committee’s hope that the operation of new regulations will not prevent the ambitious owners of smaller clubs having the flexibility to invest in areas such as infrastructure and youth development for success.

The government report agrees with the Committee that a licensing model should be imposed consistently throughout English football to underpin the self-regulation already introduced by the leagues that it is crucial that the a licensing model should be both backwards and forwards looking, and that the Football Association should take the primary responsibility for establishing this system as well as a strong scrutiny and oversight role.

On foreign ownership of football clubs, there is recognition of the important contributions that foreign owners have made to our national game and the performance of a number of clubs. At the same time the committee recommends that because of the inherent attraction of English football clubs to foreign investors and markets, particularly robust criteria need to be applied to prospective owners and directors before they are allowed to own or run a club.

On ownership the report recommends that the football authorities include this condition within the terms of the new licensing system and that it is rigorously enforced. In addition, the provisions in the Localism Bill currently before Parliament could offer significant assistance to supporters. For example, they would enable local supporters to apply to the local authority to have a facility such as a football ground or training ground listed as an ‘asset of community value’. Where that asset is then subsequently offered for sale, supporters or the wider community would have a period in which they could mount a bid for that asset.

In addition to the section on ownership the committee’s recommendation that there should be complete transparency around ownership and the terms of loans provided by Directors offers owners the opportunity to clearly demonstrate their good intentions towards the club to the authorities and the club’s supporters. It is hard to see any well-intentioned owner or owners refusing such transparency. In responding to these recommendations the government strongly urge the football authorities to include this recommendation within the new licensing system as a key condition.

On supporter interaction every club should officially recognise the relevant supporters groups or trusts and keep an open dialogue with them. They should hold official and regular annual general meetings at which these groups are invited to take part and at which appropriate financial and other information can be shared and consulted upon.

The full report can be read here.

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