Photographer: Michael Regan/Getty Images

U.K. Lawmakers Have ‘No Confidence’ in Football Association

  • Soccer’s governing body must reform or face legislation
  • Ruling body has failed to open up its governance to outsiders

England’s Football Association lost a confidence vote among U.K. lawmakers, who put soccer’s governing body on notice and said they’re prepared to impose reforms.

In a 70-minute debate in Parliament, lawmakers criticized the FA over its failure to properly represent women, black and ethnic minority groups and gay people involved in the sport. It was also chastised for failing to plow enough money into grassroots soccer.

The body has been given until April to propose reforms, and if that plan falls short of government demands, they face an intervention.

“The clock is ticking fast and failure to reform will lead not just to the withdrawal of public money, but further considerations of legislative, regulatory and financial options to bring about this change needed,” Sports and Culture Minister Tracey Crouch told lawmakers in Parliament.

Crouch has already threatened to cut government funding to the FA, the oldest national soccer federation in the world. The debate was called by Damian Collins, the chairman of Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who said soccer’s status as the national game makes it crucial as a model for inclusivity in sport.

Collins opened the debate by listing a series of previous reviews and reports calling for reforms to the FA that hadn’t been delivered.

“This is an issue we’ve been talking about for a very, very long time,” he said. “We believe now that legislation is the only way in which this can be delivered. That was the recommendation of the last three chairmen of the FA to the select committee -- to say that the FA cannot reform itself; the turkeys won’t vote for Christmas; there has to be external pressure and external action through legislation to achieve it.”

Collins, a member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservative Party, pointed to the FA’s 122-member council, which has just eight women and four people from an ethnic minority sitting on it. White men over the age of 80 outnumber women, he said.

Damian Collins

Photographer: Julien Warnand/EPA

“Not only is diversity not in the heart of the FA, it isn’t in its body or even in its soul,” Rosena Allin-Khan, the opposition Labour Party spokeswoman on sport, told lawmakers. At the same time, she said the FA should be allowed to produce the report on reforms that’s been requested of it by April.

“We have a duty to follow due process,” she said. “If this is not adhered to, we will be moving the goalposts.”

The motion of no-confidence was approved by acclamation in the House of Commons, without the need for a formal vote.

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.

Prior to the debate, FA Chairman Greg Clarke said he “strongly” opposed the motion and argued 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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