Football Association Governance

Part of Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli Settlements – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 9th February 2017.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 4:00 pm, 9th February 2017

I congratulate Damian Collins on securing the debate. I welcome this opportunity to try to influence the Minister before she concludes her discussions with the FA on its reform.

I accept that the FA needs reform. It has proven itself to be extraordinarily weak at times—as the letter from its previous three chairmen and two chief executives said, it has been unable to wield any power over the influence of the Premier League and the Football League—but we have to be clear about what we are trying to achieve. Many of the problems we are highlighting are not caused by the unwieldy construction of the council, but the weak and feeble nature of the FA board.

What do we want the FA to achieve? In England, there is one artificial grass pitch for every 42,000 people; in Germany, there is one for every 22,000 people. In England, there is one coach per 38,000 people; in Germany, there is one per 11,000 people and in Spain one per 3,000. Since 1992, when the Premier League came into being, Germany has won the European championship and the World cup, and Spain has won the World cup and the European championship twice. The council is not at fault for the lack of investment. The enormous wealth that has come into this country has not been reflected in investment in grassroots football, or the coaches and facilities that will develop our game. When we look at reform of the FA, we have to be clear about what we want to achieve.

It is not acceptable for there to be an ancient body such as the FA Council, which has representatives from the Army, Cambridge university, independent schools, Oxford university, the Air Force and the Royal Navy. The historic construction of this organisation clearly needs reform. I favour the Football Supporters’ Federation’s recommendations. We should have fans’ representatives on the board of the FA. The time has also come for fans’ reps to be on the boards of football clubs. They are an early warning system for problems that exist in our game. It is the fans we turn to when we look to save clubs that fall into difficulties. They are of the communities from which those clubs have sprung.

We have to be clear in our aims. Who are we seeking to empower? What problems are we seeking to solve? It is wrong to just say that any reconstruction of the FA will be the right thing to do. The FA board, as currently constructed, is clearly too weak to deal with the English Football League and the Premier League. The people on the council stood up to clubs that wanted to change their colours against the will of the fans. They stood up to clubs that wanted to move grounds and change grounds’ names.