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SBD Global/January 30, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MPs Tell Football Authorities To Get Finances In Order Or Face Government Intervention

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that the CMS report shows the will to modernize and change football for the better.
English football authorities "have received their most explicit warning yet that ministers will legislate to modernise the way the sport is run," according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. MPs "lambasted modest reforms that merely reinforced the Premier League’s dominance over the game." Politicians’ concerns about commercialization and increasingly indebted clubs forced the FA, the Premier League and the Football League "to draw up reforms last year, including a licence for clubs." However, the culture, media and sport committee said that their proposals "failed to go far enough." MPs said that unless the situation improves in the next 12 months, the government "should introduce legislation as soon as practically possible" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/29). Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said, "We welcome the report." Robertson, who once described football as "the worst-governed sport in Britain," added: "The report from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee (CMS) shows the will there is across Parliament for football to modernize and change for the better" (BBC, 1/29).

PRESSURE IS ON: REUTERS' Keith Weir reported the call adds pressure on the 20-team Premier League to implement UEFA's Financial Fair Play measures, which European football's governing body "has already introduced for leading teams across the continent." Raising concerns over debt levels in English football, the report called on the Premier League "to follow the example of the second-tier Championship and adopt FFP rules to rein in losses." The report added: "If they are not enforced, then we consider that legislation will be required to impose some financial discipline on clubs." The FA, Premier League and Football League said that they "were continuing to work towards final approval and implementation of the reform proposals." The organizations said in a joint statement: "Significant headway has already been made on many of these proposed reforms, not least on sustainability and transparency" (REUTERS, 1/29). BLOOMBERG's Kitty Donaldson wrote the panel said that the country’s professional leagues, especially the Premier League, "have too great an influence over the decision-making processes" of the FA. Increasing commercialization, coupled with a lack of financial regulation, is leading to "significant financial risk-taking among football clubs that threatens the game" (BLOOMBERG, 1/29).

GIANT DIVIDE: In London, Charles Sale reported widespread FA Council opposition to government interference "will only be intensified by an extraordinary ‘oversight’ in the Whitehall report slamming the FA for lack of reform progress." The select committee findings wrongly say that FA Chair David Bernstein "has been given an extension to his time in office until 2014 after an FA board decision and a change of rules." In fact, the opposite is true: Bernstein "is being forced to depart this summer after the FA Council voted not to allow him to continue at the helm after his age-limit 70th birthday." An FA spokesperson said: "If the government want to be taken seriously they should at least get their facts right. We have been running our business for 150 years, which is a lot longer than they will be in power" (DAILY MAIL, 1/29).  In London, David Conn wrote on the GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog this report's headline recommendation "is simple and there is some sadness" that it should even have to be articulated: "As the governing body of football in England the Football Association should take the lead in decision-making for the game." That is the core function of the FA, and this process, which began in Dec. '10 when the select committee launched its inquiry, "was a test of the FA's will to stand up for its independence." The committee's report concludes that "Bernstein, for all his dignity and decency as a chairman, flunked it" (GUARDIAN, 1/29).
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