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English Soccer Must Modernize Governance, Minister Says

The governance of English soccer must modernize and improve by the start of next season or the U.K. government will legislate to force change, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said.

He was responding to a report from Parliament’s cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee published in London today that concluded that the Football Association, English soccer’s governing body, is in need of “urgent reform” after failing to follow previous suggestions the panel made in July 2011.

In its report, the panel said the country’s professional leagues, especially the Premier League, have too great an influence over the decision-making processes of the F.A. Increasing commercialization, coupled with a lack of financial regulation, is leading to “significant financial risk-taking among football clubs that threatens the game” the lawmakers found.

The government should “make it clear to the football authorities that further progress on these issues is expected within 12 months,” the panel’s chairman John Whittingdale, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “If football cannot reform itself, the government should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible.”

The government, meanwhile, wants the F.A. to carry out some changes it has pledged to make to an earlier timeline -- by August, when the season starts in England.

‘Financial Transparency’

“We have been clear that we want the football authorities to carry out the reforms they promised by the start of the 2013-14 season -- most notably around improved governance and diverse representation at the F.A., the development of a licensing system and greater financial transparency,” Robertson said in an e-mail. “If football does not deliver then we will look at bringing forward legislation.”

The committee said it was “very disappointed” by the soccer authorities’ response to the proposals for change it made in 2011. The panel has proposed shaking up how the F.A. operates and making clubs adhere to financial rules, regulated by a licensing system, to prevent financial risk-taking.

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