FA chairman Greg Clarke presents 'once in a generation' reform package amid government pressure

James Benge
Under pressure: Clarke has vowed to resign if he cannot earn FA reform: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

The Football Association has a “once in a generation opportunity” to reform itself after its board agreed a package of reforms unveiled by chairman Greg Clarke today.

Last month the House of Commons passed a motion of “no confidence” in the FA and threatened to impose change on the governing body if it failed to reform itself.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch has given the organisation until April to modernise, with Clarke vowing to resign if he cannot push reforms through the FA council.

Crouch has also threatened to withhold development grants from the FA or any other governing body that fails to meet Sport England’s new governance code.

The package of reforms cannot be formally approved until the FA’s annual general meeting on May 18 but will be put to the council, the 92 member body that includes among others representatives from county FA, Premier League clubs, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Army, at a special meeting on March 21.

Reform to the council will be a key part of the FA’s plans for a more streamlined governing body, which include:

  • A reduction in the size of the FA board from 12 to 10 with a commitment to reserve three positions for women and to introduce three three-year term limits
  • The addition of 11 members to the FA council “to ensure it better reflects the inclusive and diverse nature of English football”
  • Ensuring all current council members are “active” in the organisation they represent and introducing term limits for the council

The reform package, which took a six month review to agree, has already been unanimously agreed upon by the FA board but Clarke may face a greater challenge convincing what his predecessor Greg Dyke labelled the “old men of English football” on the council to agree to his proposals.

Speaking to reporters at Wembley, Clarke said: “Is it 100% of what (Crouch and Sport England) are looking for? No. But, if you ask me, it's nine out of 10.

“It falls clearly into the zone of it being capable of acceptance. If you want to do a deal, this is great progress.

“It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally change the way football works and this deal is there to be done.

“If you don't want to do a deal, you can find something in there to fall out about.”

Further interference by the government could be even worse for the FA, who may face subsequent sanctions from Fifa if world football’s governing body deems the English game’s decision making process to have been politicized.

It leaves the FA having to follow a fine line between satisfying Crouch and Sport England without appearing to be acting solely on the basis of political pressure.

Clarke said: "This set of proposals has overachieved on what I thought was possible. So I'm hopeful we will get a fair hearing.

"If (the government) say 'this is unacceptable', I don't know who is going to do better and if you trust government to come in and run football, yabadabadoo, let them have a go. Whether FIFA can do anything, you'd have to ask a lawyer."

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