Governance of the game

FA warns against government meddling

February 3, 2011

The Football Association say there is "no justification'' for direct Government intervention into the governance of the game and have warned their organisation could face FIFA sanctions if politicians overstepped the mark.

Minister for Sports and Olympics Hugh Robertson
GettyImagesMinister for Sports and Olympics Hugh Robertson

The comments, made in written evidence from the FA to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into football governance, follow comments from sports minister Hugh Robertson, who described football as the "worst governed'' sport in Britain.

The FA said in their statement they welcome the views of politicians across the spectrum but made it clear what problems they would face if Government directly intervened in the national game.

"The FA believes that there is no justification for direct intervention by Government into the running of English football,'' the statement read.

"It is unclear on what basis such intervention might be justified as the externalities that are traditionally cited in cases of direct market intervention are not applicable.

"Furthermore, we would ask the Committee to note the examples of other football nations where 'direct intervention' has resulted in restrictions being placed on international team participation by FIFA.''

As recently as last year the Nigerian federation were threatened with expulsion from FIFA after government officials in the African state tried to withdraw the team from future competitions after their poor performance at the World Cup in South Africa.

Sports minister Robertson said last month: "Issues of football governance need attention and need action and that is precisely why the select committee has responded to levels of anxiety across the House and announced their investigation.

"If you look across sport, it is very clear to me that football is the worst governed sport in this country, without a shadow of a doubt. The levels of corporate governance that apply to football lag far behind other sports and other sports are by no means beacons in this regard.''

In response to a committee question of whether the professional game is overburdened with debt, the FA said in their written submission: "It is the belief of the FA that the aggregate level of debt funding in itself is not necessarily a problem that needs addressing.

"However, it is the view of the FA that any funding of clubs reliant on 'non-football generated' income should not be tied to undue financial risk which may have consequences not just for the financial stability of the club but for the integrity of the competitions as well.

"Therefore the ability for individual clubs to service their debts, and openly demonstrate their ability to do so on a regular basis, is central to the current regulatory approach.

"As such all the football authorities have moved to ensure that Premier League and Championship clubs can demonstrate that they do not have outstanding debts to other clubs on an annual basis, and that they are no more than three months in arrears with their HMRC (tax) requirements.''