Tuesday 25 April 2017

Greg Clarke presents "once-in-a-generation" FA reform proposals

Greg Clarke has set out proposals to modernise the FA
Greg Clarke has set out proposals to modernise the FA

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has described his plan for an overhaul of how the sport is run in England as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to make the national game better.

The FA's refusal to move with the times has been debated for as long as England's failings to win another World Cup but Clarke, who took over in September, is confident he can do what has proved beyond his predecessors by dragging the organisation into the 21st century.

The size of that task was made clear last month, when the House of Commons passed a backbench motion of "no confidence" in the FA's ability to reform itself.

Faced with the loss of millions from grassroots funding agency Sport England, Clarke has persuaded the often warring parties within the game to agree to a more streamlined decision-making structure, greater gender and ethnic diversity and term limits.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch had also threatened to withhold development grants from national governing bodies that do not meet a new governance code.

The key proposal from the FA is a reduction in the size of the board from 12 to 10, with three of those positions reserved for women from 2018 and a cap of three three-year terms for board members.

This will mean the board is comprised of the FA chairman and chief executive, two independents and three representatives each from the county FAs and other amateur associations on one side, and the professional leagues on the other.

The much-maligned council will also be revamped, with life and senior vice-presidents losing their voting rights and the arrival of 11 new members that better represent the diverse nature of English football.

Speaking to reporters at Wembley, Clarke said: "Is it 100% of what (Crouch and Sport England) are looking for? No. But, if you ask me, it's nine out of 10.

"It falls clearly into the zone of it being capable of acceptance. If you want to do a deal, this is great progress.

"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally change the way football works and this deal is there to be done.

"(But) if you don't want to do a deal, you can find something in there to fall out about."

Clarke was asked whether he thought the reforms would be enough to satisfy Crouch, but not look like they have been made under political pressure. Any appearance of political duresse would incur FIFA's wrath, as it believes sport must be independent of government.

Clarke said: " This set of proposals has overachieved on what I thought was possible. So I'm hopeful we will get a fair hearing.

"If (the government) say 'this is unacceptable', I don't know who is going to do better and if you trust government to come in and run football, yabadabadoo, let them have a go. Whether FIFA can do anything, you'd have to ask a lawyer."

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.

Clarke's confidence in these reforms being approved is based on his travels around the country listening to what has gone wrong in the past.

Having held senior positions within the game, first at Leicester and then the English Football League, since the 1990s, Clarke described the main obstacle as "distrust" between the so-called blazers of the amateur game and the professional clubs. The Leicester-born executive said compromises have now been made by all parties.

The "no confidence" vote in parliament was driven by the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee chairman Damian Collins, who has also criticised the FA for failing to stand up to the perceived might of the Premier League.

Asked for a response to this, Clarke said: "I s Damian Collins saying that we should run the Premier League? (PL boss) Richard Scudamore can run the Premier League much better than me. Shaun Harvey would run the English Football League much better than I would. You need to delegate.

"Does (Scudamore) pick the England team? Does he decide what the FA Cup distributions are? Does he decide what our new billion-pound FA Cup deal is? He doesn't.

"Going forward, he will have one board member and a joint vote on who the third board member is with the EFL."

Press Association

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