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Premier League influence worries MPs

Premier League logo. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Premier League logo. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
8:34 AM

The Premier League is wielding too great an influence over English football, a committee of MPs has claimed.

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The culture, media and sport select committee issued an ultimatum to English football’s authorities to make further reforms or face possible legislation.

The committee’s follow-up report into football governance said it has been “very disappointed” by the football authorities’ response to its proposals for reform made in July 2011.

It adds: “We were concerned that the leagues - especially the Premier League - had too great an influence over the decision-making processes of the Football Association.”

It also warned that financial reforms in particular have been “hugely disappointing”. The initial proposals included shaking up how the FA operates and making clubs adhere to financial rules, regulated by a licensing system, to prevent financial risk-taking.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said: “While some progress has been achieved, much greater reform in football is needed to make the game inclusive, sustainable and driven from the grass roots, where it should be.

“The proposals for reform so far simply don’t address the fundamental problems: the licensing model, the way supporters are engaged at club level and the membership of the main [FA] board, which is not fully representative or able to balance interests adequately.

“In addition, the financial proposals were hugely disappointing: the financial risk-taking by clubs is a threat to the sustainability of football as a family and community-orientated game, which it should be.

“If football cannot reform itself, the Government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible.”

Recommendations by the committee include:

- reduce the size of the FA board, and make FA executives and non-executive directors be in the minority compared to the “vested interests” of members appointed by the professional and amateur game.

- the Premier League and Football League should be limited to one FA board member each - the leagues currently have two apiece.

- The FA board should have fans’ representation.

- Full information on the ownership of clubs should be made publicly available.

- The FA should regulate a financial licensing system, and not leave it to the Premier League and Football League.

- If spending controls such as financial fair play are not adopted by the clubs, legislation should be brought in to impose financial discipline.

- The Football Creditors’ Rule, which gives clubs’ preferred creditor status, should be banned “at the earliest opportunity” by the Government.

- Long-term funding plans should be agreed for Supporters Direct (SD), a group that promotes the value of supporter ownership and influence.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson insisted the warning on legislation was no empty threat. He said: “If football does not deliver the reforms then we will look at bringing forward legislation.”

In a joint statement, the FA, Premier League and Football League insisted the necessary reforms would be implemented.

It said: “Significant headway has already been made on many of these proposed reforms, not least on sustainability and transparency. The remaining reform proposals are the subject of consultation within the game and we are confident that the necessary progress will be made.”

In welcoming the report, SD chief executive David Lampitt said: “The committee has clearly been spurred on by what they called the ‘lack of direction and urgency’ of the football authorities and has recognised that a few minor changes do not add up to meaningful reform.

“A timetable for proper change is now required, backed up by government intervention if it is not delivered upon.

“It is supporters who sustain the game economically - whether through tickets or TV subscriptions - and who have the long terms interests of the game at heart.”

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