March 6, 2021

UK: Tracey Crouch warns government may legislate to reform the FA

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The government will consider passing a law to force the Football Association to reform if has not reorganised its council and board by April, the sports minister Tracey Crouch said on Tuesday. The FA, and other governing bodies, have been set that deadline for compliance with a new code of standards which require their boards to be more independent and diverse.

Crouch’s appearance at the culture, media and sport select committee came after the chairman, Damian Collins, revealed that a draft backbench bill is being prepared to reform the FA. That followed a letter to Collins from three former FA chairmen and two former directors, who said they learned from experience that the governing body cannot reform itself.

Pressed by Collins about whether she would support legislation, Crouch said she believes the FA chairman, Greg Clarke, is taking reform seriously and she wants to give the FA time, but conceded: “If they don’t, there is always the potential for legislation in this area.”

Pressed further on the possibility, Crouch said: “I certainly don’t rule it out. I think [the FA] will want to take this opportunity not to get to a point where legislation is required.”

Crouch, a junior minister, who like previous sports ministers has no place in the cabinet, did not give any detail about the realistic chances of time being made for legislation, any level of government support for it, or how it could happen. She said that as the FA is not the only governing body which is failing to comply withthe standards of the new code for sports governance, introduced in October, any law would have to include these other sports as well.

The FA is on notice that it will lose £30m public funding for grass roots football via Sport England, and not receive support for any future World Cup bid if the reformed board and council are not delivered, Crouch told the select committee.The code for sports governance, requires the boards of governing bodies to have 25% independent directors, aim for “gender parity and greater diversity,” and be “the ultimate decision-making body and exercise all of the powers of the organisation”.

In football, the FA council, comprised of more than 100 mostly elderly representatives of amateur county FAs and league, still has significant rule-making and blocking powers, while the current board of 12 has four members from the professional game, four from the amateur, and only two independent directors, of whom only one, Heather Rabbatts, is a woman. Crouch said other governing bodies also failing to comply include the sports of athletics, rugby union, equestrianism and yachting.

Collins argued that the deterrent of losing £30m is insignificant to the FA which has just signed a six- overseas TV deal reportedly worth $1bn. Crouch replied that she believed the loss of public money is an incentive and that the FA should be given time to reform.

The sports minister also said that the £100m announced by the Premier League as its investment for grass roots football annually, the equivalent of 1.25% of the Premier League’s new £8bn TV deals, is a good settlement, and that the league should not be tied to a percentage.

IMAGE: Tracey Crouch pictured ast the 2015 Rugby League Challenge Cup Final. Photograph: Colorsport/Rex/Shutterstock

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