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FA told to reform or face £25m funding cut

Government sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has demanded the Football Association implement immediate reform, as laid out in the Burns Report four years ago, or face a £25 million cut in grassroots funding.

Sutcliffe insists the old guard can't continue to run the game as it is and wants the FA to introduce two independent, non-executive directors to its board and improve the development of the game for women and ethnic minorities "as soon as possible".

The FA's response to the modernising reforms suggested by Lord Burns' investigation into the running of the national game in 2005 has been "disappointing" and Sutcliffe told The Guardian that the threat of slashing funding from Sport England would be a stimulus for change.

"Funding is one lever we've got. It would be a last resort. But there has to be, and there already is, a recognition that the status quo is not good enough," Sutcliffe said. "[The FA must] use this opportunity - where good progress has been made - to put their house in order. If that doesn't happen the influence of the FA will diminish and football as a sport will suffer."

The Burns report conlcuded that the FA must 'adapt or die' following an investigation into issues such as potential conflicts of interests among FA board members, an unrepresentative council, a lack of confidence in the disciplinary process, too much power being wielded by the Premier League and a lack of representation for the grassroots game.

Sutcliffe's attack on the FA will be seen as an implicit criticism that the FA still have some way to go to meet the demands of the modern game.

Having come in for criticism from various sections of the football community Sutcliffe defended his proposal and told BBC Radio Five Live: "We see ourselves as critical friends. We have a £25 million investment through Sport England, we contribute £15 million to the Football Foundation, football comes to the Government to ask us to help on European issues around TV rights, around a whole range of issues.

"I think it's a fair balance we strike. At the end of the day it's football and football should be running the game but as a government with that investment I think it's right we say what we think."

Asked if the FA were holding back development of the game, Sutcliffe added: "I think they are in the sense of they could do better. English football is a success but you want to maintain that success.

"Football is a success, nobody is saying it's dying on its feet. But what we have to do is maintain the progress and make sure and the Football Association is the body that can make sure that it's representative and can lead the way.

"I think it is competent but as recognised in Burns, there's a long way to go. To change from the old style structure to the new structure we need to have non-executive directors on the board, there needs to be progress in the women's game."

Sutcliffe concluded that only by implementing the Burns report in full, and working more harmoniously with the Premier League and Football League, could the FA make progress on crucial issues such as youth development and the mothballed National Football Centre in Burton.


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