Photographer: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

English Soccer Under Attack as Lawmakers Prepare to Force Reform

  • Debate on motion of ‘no confidence’ in Football Association
  • Ruling body has failed to open up its governance to outsiders

English soccer’s governing body faces a vote of no confidence in Britain’s Parliament on Thursday over its failure to reform and embrace diversity.

The Football Association should be forced to change because it has dragged its feet on allowing supporters, women, minority ethnic groups and players to have a say in how it is run, lawmakers in London will be told on Thursday. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has already threatened to cut government funding if the FA, the oldest national soccer federation in the world, doesn’t comply.

Damian Collins

Photographer: Julien Warnand/EPA

“There are powerful vested interests that refuse to accept the right of all those involved in football to play a role in the governance of the sport,” Damian Collins, the chairman of Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said in a statement posted on the panel’s website. The committee is “preparing a draft bill to bring the structure of the FA, especially its Board and Council, more into line with modern company practice and the government’s guidelines for sports bodies.”

Collins, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, secured the debate to test support in Parliament for legislation to force the FA to change its governance. Soccer’s status as the national game makes it crucial as a model for inclusivity in sport, Collins said, and a change in the law is needed to force it into line.

“We do not believe that the FA will comply voluntarily,” Collins said. “It can survive easily without the government’s contribution of money to grassroots sport.”

Power Shift

Collins’s committee has published two reports critical of the FA, which was founded in 1863, and has called for power in the organization to be shifted from professional clubs, including those in the Premier League, in favor of “grassroots” groups. Calls for reform have been ignored, it said.

FA Chairman Greg Clarke said he “strongly” opposes the motion and argues that the governing body should be given more time to make the requested changes. It is in the process of drawing up proposals to submit to Crouch, he said. If they fail, he will quit.

“Delivering real change is my responsibility and I firmly believe this is critical for the future of the game,” Clarke told BBC Sport on Tuesday. “If the government is not supportive of the changes when they are presented in the coming months, I will take personal responsibility for that,” he said. “I will be accountable for that failure and would in due course step down from my role.”

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