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Apr 26, 2011

MP: English game must change

Sports minister Hugh Robertson has issued a damning indictment on how English football is run - and insisted he was right to brand it the worst-run sport in the country.

Robertson said change is now vital - but that legislation to force through that change remains a last resort.

The minister was giving evidence to the culture, media and sport committee in London, who are carrying out an inquiry into football governance, and told MPs little had changed at the FA despite the Burns review of six years ago.

Robertson said: "The fact is when I looked at the corporate governance operations in sports, particularly the big five, it was noticeably worse than in any other sport. There are no independent non-executive directors despite the Burns review.

"Every single one of the directors is a white male and late middle-aged and there is no one who has played the game to any reasonable level and no women or anyone from the ethnic communities.

"For the 2018 World Cup bid £15 million was spent and we succeeded solely in garnering one extra vote other than our own. The chairman of the Football Foundation [Clive Sherling] resigned in despair at the politicking going on around the game. The evidence is pretty clear.''

Sherling, a businessman who was formerly chairman of the Football Licensing Authority, stepped down earlier this year after just 18 months in the job.

At Tuesday's evidence session, the MPs were told by a senior UEFA figure that "turf wars'' between the professional and amateur games had reduced the FA to being one of the weakest national associations in Europe.

William Gaillard, adviser to UEFA president Michel Platini, said the success of the Premier League and Football League had overwhelmed the FA.

Gaillard said: "There is no doubt that turf wars have damaged English football and the FA is probably in a weaker spot than any other FA in Europe - probably the result of the overwhelming power of professional football especially as expressed by the Premier League and Football League.

"In other countries there is a more balanced situation. In most other countries the professional game has a minority position. English professional football has been enormously successful in producing revenues and building up the game and we have to be grateful to the Premier League and Football League for that.

"At the same time this has not resulted in a better situation for English football in general and performances of the national team have not been outstanding.''

Gaillard recommended that England should adopt the football model used in Holland - "an excellent grass-roots model'' - and that the FA should have a technical director.

He added: "They should have a full-time technical director - that's what exists in most other good educational models in Europe.''

Meanwhile, committee member Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said the fact neither the FA nor the Football League knew who owned Leeds was a "fairly shambolic state of affairs''.

The FA have sent a clarification to the committee admitting they do not know the identities of the people behind the three offshore trusts that own the Championship club. Robertson agreed that the rules should be changed to force transparency of ownership.

The minister said: "It's patently absurd that people save up every week to go through the turnstiles and cannot find out who owns the club. It's perfectly reasonable for fans to expect to know who the owners are of their football club and that's something that should be corrected sooner rather than later.''

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