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Jan 29, 2013

Government aims to curb Prem influence

English football is still being too heavily influenced by the Premier League and government legislation may be required to bring about reform in the national game, a committee of MPs has claimed.

The culture, media and sport select committee said it was "very disappointed" by the Football Association's response to its original proposals made 18 months in its follow-up report released on Tuesday.

"We were concerned that the leagues - especially the Premier League - had too great an influence over the decision-making processes of the Football Association," the committee said.

The initial report included proposals to change how to make clubs adhere to financial rules, regulated by a licencing system, and also how to shake up the way in which the FA operates. However, the lack of financial reform since those proposals were made has been described as "very disappointing".

"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," committee chairman John Whittingdale said.

"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."

Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson insists that Government will step in to make changes happen through law if those in the game cannot make it happen themselves.

"If football does not deliver the reforms then we will look at bringing forward legislation," he said.

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.

The FA, Premier League and Football League said in a joint statement that they were committed to pushing through reform.

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

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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