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Sunday 30 April 2017

Q&A: MPs to debate 'no confidence' motion on FA's ability to reform itself

Martin Glenn took up the role of FA chief executive in May 2015
Martin Glenn took up the role of FA chief executive in May 2015

The House of Commons will next week debate a motion of "no confidence" in the Football Association's ability to reform itself.

The debate has been called for by the Culture, Media and Sport committee and will take place on Thursday, February 9.

Here is a look at the key issues involved.

What is it that critics of the FA do not like?

Where do you start? For some, the game was up the minute the FA let the top clubs split from the Football League, as instead of dividing its critics in the club game it unleashed a money-making machine that would emerge as the real force within football. For others, it is the interminable failures of the England team. While some just look at the organisation and decide it is too old, white and male to represent the national game in the 21st century.

But haven't we been talking about this for years?

Yes! And nothing ever seems to change. Or if it does, the changes are so incremental, the perception of a governing body trapped in the past remains. This perception is not helped by the rapid turnover in staff at the top, particularly as the more reform-minded chairmen and chief executives always seem to quit in exasperation or embarrassment.

So what is different this time?

Some will say nothing as we have seen several attempts to force through reforms at the FA over the last 20 years and they have all failed, often because sports ministers never hang around long enough. But current incumbent Tracey Crouch looks more determined than most and she is using Government funding of grassroots sport as leverage. Sport England gave the FA £30million between 2013-17 and a decision on the size of the next cheque is imminent. The other factor is the belligerence of the CMS select committee - the 11 MPs who hold the sports minister to account really have the bit between their teeth on the FA's failings.

What might happen next, then?

Well, nearly six months has passed since Crouch's publication of a new governance code for sporting governing bodies who want to keep receiving public money. In broad terms, this called for a move towards gender equality on boards, more independent oversight, more accountability, term limits and lots of other good ideas. The FA says it has been quietly working to meet the targets but the select committee has run out of patience and has now tabled a "no confidence" motion in the FA's ability to reform itself that will be debated in parliament next week.

What does the FA think about that?

Publicly, it is saying it remains committed to meeting the new governance code and is working towards that. Privately, it is furious as serious reform, as outlined above, has eluded 20 years' worth of sports ministers and FA bosses precisely because it is difficult. The current regime - chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn - have not been in post that long and they say they are making progress. For example, they want to expand the board from 12 to 14 with two new female members, bringing the total number of women there to three. The select committee, on the other hand, has only one female MP among its 11 members.

What does FIFA think?

Ah, this is the great unknown at the moment. So far, it has said nothing as it has had its own very public governance issues to deal with and has not been in a position to admonish or pontificate. But it traditionally hates any government interference in football, and has punished member associations for letting that happen. We are a long way from that happening in this case, but there will be some in Zurich who would not hesitate to put the boot into the country that has been so vocal in its condemnation of FIFA's woes.

Press Association

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