Football Association Governance

Part of Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli Settlements – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 9th February 2017.

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Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Labour, Hyndburn 4:34 pm, 9th February 2017

It has been 50 years of hurt in the English game and we are all suffering, but at least we are not Scotland.

It is not only all the issues that have been raised by hon. Members that appear to show a structure that is unfit for purpose. We have seen not just a sequence of managers but of chairmen who have not been credible or led the FA properly. It is time for root and branch reform of the organisation and some sense of the English game being managed for the benefit of all—those at the top and those at the bottom. I want to touch briefly on some of the problems, such as the coaching problems mentioned by my right hon. Friend Keith Vaz. There are all sorts of problems in coaching, and we have had the recent scandal. When we talk about root and branch reform, it cannot just be about the FA, the senior structures and the picking of the England manager—although they are dreadful at that—it must be about some of the other issues at the grassroots. My hon. Friend Christian Matheson mentioned the funding of grassroots football, and that must also be part of root and branch reform.

My area has three clubs, two of which are well run. One is Accrington Stanley, and I give a shout for Andy Holt, who must be the best chairman in the football league. The other is Burnley, which is well run, but I shall move on.

Many people in the Chamber and outside will be aware of the problems of my club, Blackburn Rovers, and how poorly it is run. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester also mentioned the involvement of agents in the game, which root and branch reform must address. Three or four years ago, we had Jerome Anderson, who I think must be agent 001, who went on the television saying he was working for Blackburn Rovers. He was acting as a purchaser and advising on players, he was also an agent providing players and his son was on the books at the time, alongside other players he represented. The FA said that was not a breach. Everyone looked at that and thought, “Hang on a minute, we’ve just had half an hour’s rant from Jerome Anderson on Sky Sports.” It was clearly wrong, and the FA did nothing about it. It brings the game into disrepute.

My final point is about the owners, and I think people know what I am going to say. When we talk about a fit and proper persons test, we talk about people who perhaps should not run football clubs for financial reasons. In the case of Blackburn Rovers, it is just sheer incompetence. There is only one UK director and they have no interest in the fans or the club.