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Is football governance inquiry too broad to hit target?

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David Bond | 14:30 UK time, Tuesday, 8 March 2011

It took an Irishman - former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Niall Quinn - to point out English football's failings in its humiliating 2018 World Cup bid.

Giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's inquiry into football governance on Tuesday, Quinn, now chairman of Premier League club Sunderland, said "arrogance" had "drowned out all the good stuff".

Stoke City chairman Peter Coates was also heavily critical of the way England's bid team had failed to see the humiliation coming. His words are worth quoting at length.

"It was pretty shocking," he said.

"I'm surprised we didn't know more. We had no idea we were only going to get one vote (in addition to the one from England's own Fifa member Geoff Thompson). There's something wrong if we didn't know that. It surprised me we weren't smart enough to get a flavour or feel of that and ended up with an egg on our face."

David Bernstein is set to act on the back of recent criticism of the FA.

David Bernstein is set to act on the back of recent criticism of the FA.

Of course, one of the reasons - if not the main one - we are having this parliamentary inquiry is because of the failed World Cup bid last December. The first-round exit, coming as it did in the same year as England's early elimination from the World Cup in South Africa, highlighted existing concerns about the way the Football Association is run.

The Government wants to see change and Coates, Quinn and Manchester United chief executive David Gill took the opportunity to press the Premier League's case for FA reform on Tuesday.

Gill argued that the FA was not "completely broken" but added that the turnover of senior staff - a clear reference to the departures of chief executive Ian Watmore and Lord Triesman within the space of two months last year - was not helpful.

Gill and Coates agreed it was now time to add two independent directors to the board of the FA to help the new chairman David Bernstein, while Bernstein himself wrote to the FA council suggesting the same thing last month.

This has become totemic for the Government and this inquiry. Yet the idea is certain to be fiercely resisted by those elements of the FA - namely respresentatives of the amateur game - with most to lose. And will it really make any difference?

Former FA board member and Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney made exactly that point during his damning evidence to the committee.

"For the last few years, the record at the FA is pretty terrible," he said. "But people should not assume that the problems will be solved by appointing two non-executive directors. The FA's problems are much deeper and more radical than that."

The success of this inquiry will be judged on whether the MPs can get to the bottom of these problems. But the broad range of questions faced by Gill and his Premier League colleagues illustrates why the committee may ultimately miss the target.

Gill spent decent chunks of his time in front of the committee defending Manchester United's debt-financed business model. This is clearly a matter of public interest - particularly for United supporters - and his admission that it would be better for the club if they did not have to pay £45m a year in interest is significant.

But - and I have said this before - the danger is that, unless it becomes a bit more focused in its questioning, this committee's remit will become too broad to deliver anything worthwhile.


  • Comment number 1.

    David - The Select Committees remit should focus entirely upon the FA's 'fitness for purpose'. You only have to look at the disasters that have occured in the last few years; starting with the 'scandals' involving top FA people, through the Wembley pitch fiasco, the nonsense over the managers contract changes, through to the Triesman affair and then to cap it all the failed (miserably)WC bid, to realise there is something terribly wrong with the way the FA is governed and how it operates. The committee should 'strip things back to the wood' and start again -please!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Maybe I have just be manipulated by the media but I still feel England had a fairly solid bid worthy of more than 1 vote. We have our problems sure, but Russia have theres as well (mainly racism and violence) which was presumingly overlooked.

    Anyhow, it isn't as if the FA don't have time to sort out our problems. It will be decades before talk of the World Cup being hosted hear again unfortunately. Have plenty of time for trial and error till a solution has been found.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    We should just stop trying to host any future tournaments. Stop wasting time and money and just concentrate on running the football that happens in this country and developing the national team. I'd love the world cup in this coutry in my lifetime but I don't like the way you have to go about getting it. I'd rather England win the world cup than us host a world cup so lets just concentrate on that.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think Niall Quinn is spot on - one of the big problems is "arrogance".

    To someone who isn't English, all this "home of football" and "best league in the world" propaganda is tiresome. The bid team, and sections of the media, seemed pretty certain the Russians were the only serious opposition, but it didn't turn out that way.

    Perhaps England would be more serious contenders if people from within the game spent more time listening, to find out what fans and officials from other nations really think of English football.

  • Comment number 6.

    We should be developing our coaches and our youngsters, not trying to put on a front to the world by holding the world cup. My son plays for his local under 8 side, the club has all the necessary facilities and qualified coaching staff to be granted acadamy status. Unfortunatley the club is not in the football league and so does not qualify! We need to be developing players who are skilfull, play without fear, make their own decisions and take responsibility during a game if we are to be successful at national level.
    We have the kids with the talent and potential, but not the correct structure.

  • Comment number 7.

    Specifically, what aspect of England's actual bid was fundamentally 'arrogant' though? I would say very modestly that England has all the necessary stadia already in place, its a small (relatively) easy country to travel around in and visit, has massive native interest in the game, a summer climate perfect for playing football in......what's Russia got offer over and above that? (Never mind Qatar)

    Its the voting and bidding process that is arrogant if anything. The same old cronies who've been on the Fifa exec for 30 years are a law unto themselves. Up until the early 1980s EVERY fifa member had a vote on where the next WC would be awarded to, but that was cahanged to an exec committee vote - and guess who was instrumental in that change - our old friend Sepp!

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the problem is that the FA became a bit of a 'boys club' where they enjoyed the gravitas of who they worked for and the perks and benefits rather than working hard to improve the game and it's players. It would be interesting to see an expose on the expenses of the FA executive in the last ten years on themselves and entertaining UEFA and FIFA. The other issue is similar to our political one with the EU. We bend over and bow to FIFA and UEFA when really we should look in house and see how we can improve our game whether they like it or not. I'd like to se the FA and Premier league come out and say - 'do you know what, we will introduce technology and to hell with what any one else thinks' or 'we'll change the offside law back to the way it was so there was no ambiguity'. That would show us that the FA are still relevant and strong enough to run our game. It'll never happen though as we English just nod politely and don't wish to cause a fuss.

  • Comment number 9.

    The only person in the FA who spoke one iota of sence was Trev Brooking who at least had the foresight to push for promotion of grassroots football all the others are business men who dont care about football just making a quick buck out of it.

    Surely the best thing to do is get respected ex pros and managers who care and know the game to write up a plan for the prem and football leagues to work together maybe!?

    P.s and stop wasting money trying to bring big tournaments here!

  • Comment number 10.

    To be honest I think that the arrogance and old-boy networks are not only applicable to the FA but are prevalent across the game. This is seen in how both FIFA and UEFA govern the game by keeping all opinions and decisions within a tightly-knit group who shape the future of the game without reference to Associations, Clubs or supporters concerns or wishes - arrogance in its purest form. This then filters through a number of Associations (and I would include the FA and SFA as among the worst offenders in this) who will run the game in their countries with reference to what suits them and are very much under the influence of closely held allegiances. There is not a monopoly on this in England and the situation is far worse in Scotland where the game is being run to the benefit of only two clubs regardless of how many others come under its auspices.

    There is a need for independent input into hpw the game is run and projected both North and South of the border so that the views of the many can overcome the influence of the few but, in reality, it is unlikely that this will be done with old guard in charge and there needs to be a complete clearout at all levels to bring the game back to the people

  • Comment number 11.

    I think the "arrogance" is reflected in the sulking post losing out. Let there be no doubt, the selection process for the World Cup is political and we clearly got the politics very wrong. Since we have heard a steady stream of things that had been offered being taken away (I'm sure not all true but some must be) e.g. preferencial accomodation for the Olympics, Blatter removed from invitations for royal weddings, England friendlies offered to countries now withdrawn etc.

    We seemed willing to get involved in this political game, clearly did not do so very well, and I find the outrage at our loss and the scale of it to be petty. Yes, the processes is dodgy, but it always was when we decided to get involved. And as for the naietety regarding promised votes and the subsequent outrage. Again I say, this is a political process, not a transparent sporting contest.

    And I come back to arrogance. How many nations are there who have never hosted a world cup who would benefit massively by hosting one. We assume that we have the best technical bid (even that worthy of a debate given our transport infrastructure etc) and that alone means we should win the bid, irrespective of the wider global picture. There are a number of different drivers re the selection process and we are arrogant enough to think that a sound technical bid back in one of the same old countries should be the priority that matters to FIFA. Maybe, but we should be able to understand that they have chosen to take a wider strategic view.

    The shoddy process and questionnable outcomes (e.g. Qatar) do not vindicate our bid and our reaction to losing.

  • Comment number 12.

    If the FA do make reform, do they have enough influence over the Premier League? It seems there are too many parties involved with self interests to get to any agreements.

    Why is the Government involved in this anyway? Sport and Politics should be kept well away from each other!

  • Comment number 13.

    Issues of football governance cover the following:

    1. Financial probity, which includes ownership in jurisdictions where there is no ability to probe probity. There should be a requirement in English football for full and transparent accounting and full and transparent ownership, with stronger accounting transparency rules for any clubs owned by shell companies with nominee Directors.
    2. Match fixing, including:
    i. Nobbling or incentivising referees.
    ii. Gambling scams using spot-fix-style markets.
    iii. Restraint of trade through fictitious injuries weakening sides to pre-agreed outcomes.
    3. Restraint of trade, pertaining to players being discriminated against in terms of playing if they refuse to sign long contracts, being restricted in where they can play if they leave and the resultant biasing of leagues in favour of certain teams. Further issues of restraint of trade of UK players due to the 'internationalisation' of the English game.
    4. The honesty of international football, with particular reference to match-fixing involving international figures of considerable public importance.
    5. The honesty of tournament hosting rights competitions.
    6. The overwhelming case for technology to aid decision making and the hair-brained refusal of major administrative bodies to endorse it.
    7. The code of omerta which exists within football which makes reform of illegal, unethical or sharp practice so difficult to achieve.

    I suspect there are many who would not want to know the full truth about all these matters.

    One wonders why they would waste public money on an enquiry which didn't address them, in these financially straitened and difficult times for the taxpayer, if not for millionaire footballers, managers or owners?

  • Comment number 14.

    The power has to shift from the PL to the FA for any reform of governance to have any effect. If the self-interest culture that led to blind eyes being turned to the debacle that was Pompey last season isn't wiped out then clubs outside those competing for Champions League places haven't a chance of survival in the current climate.

    Changing the F&PPT just rearranges the Titanic's deckchairs. Whilst the money sloshes about the way it does greed is always going to be the driving factor in football governance.

  • Comment number 15.

    Really? Government inquiry into the FA's failings?
    I suppose once we invade Libya and get hold of their Oil & Gas reserves, these times of austerity will be over and ridiculous exercises such as this will be fiscally acceptable.
    I seem to remember there being lots of inquiries and reports done by and for the FA - grass roots football and Trevor Brooking, as someone else has mentioned, yet nothing happened - recommendations have been routinely ignored by successive CEO's.
    Exactly right as someone else has mentioned that the FA is run by businessmen, with no real passion for the game - didn't Adam Crozier go to work as the CEO at the Post Office? I rather think he did.
    Is this all because we didn't get the World Cup in 2018? You know the World Cup that in 2010 during every match on both the BBC and ITV, kept harping on about Blatter's mission to take the tournament to "New Frontiers." It seemed obvious then, that Russia were going to get it. Qatar did surprise me, only reason being the heat, but a new frontier it is.
    Unless the recommendations are going to be put in place, and the FA have some power over the Premier League, this is going to be another waste of time and money.

  • Comment number 16.

    rjaggar while your points are all issues arising from or risks of poor governance the real issue is the governance structure in place.

    The lack of a genuine common goal between the FA & PL and a group of people willing and able to control the game domestically while making best use of the money in the game is fundamental issue. Otherwise all your list will remain un addressed.

    The FA is like the LTA loads of money yet little control of its own game...

  • Comment number 17.

    This looks like an article trying to re-write history.
    At the time, the bid representatives were telling us they had been told by committee members that they would get certain votes.
    Then Panorama dragged up old accusations, without any real new evidence, got the everybody all riled up jsut days before the vote, hounded committee members, who, if we are to believe the Panorama report, had shall we say conflicted priorities.
    And suddenly it's our bid committee who are arrogant? A little naive maybe. But let's not forgot the timing of the hoo-har the BBC dragged up.

  • Comment number 18.

    Not sure what I wrote that broke the house rules aside from what everyone else has mentioned about SB already :(

    Trevor Brooking for FA Chairman, no more non-football background blazer types please.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    I guess it's impossible to state facts about FIFA and the FA without defaming both organisations, so I'll simply say that I trust neither one to do a good job and can't see how anyone would.

  • Comment number 21.

    Football, or more specifically the Premier League, is run purely as a business rather than a sport. Sky pump crazy money in to get crazy money out by broadcasting games, players from around the world take home crazy wages and super-rich businessmen empty their pockets to keep the whole enterprise afloat. Like it or not, the whole industry, the "best league in the world" tripe is worth billions to the economy.

    If football more like it is supposed to be is what you are lookinng for, I'd suggest going to the ground of your nearest football league side.

    Sport vs Industry is a big debate and one that will be around for a long time to come.

  • Comment number 22.

    It obvious the hosts were decided well in advance of the vote so the bod was irrelevant.

    FIFA only has the WC now so it needs to make all its money there. Hence Russia & Qatar. $$$$$ comes before the quality of the tourney, or the quality of the host.

    A team that has never qualified should not host the WC, it makes a mockery of those that qualify.

    England need to be cluey enough not to bother when Blatter is still there

  • Comment number 23.

    The government should stay the hell out of football. If our government interferes in the game, I strongly hope FIFA punishes the act - not merely for consistency, either.

    Especially *this* government, who I am convinced could not successfully fix a comb-over.

  • Comment number 24.

    Quinn was only stating what many outwith England looking in think and have done so for years. Its an old well versed criticism and that it was present in the WC bid was no surprise.

    Your media (along with the likes of Triesman) were telling FIFA: we do not contravene the rules unlike all others (the designer handlags, Quatar Royal Trip and Prince Andy Pandy episodes nailed this though); we are the home of football and have the best players in the world in our league; FIFA need to be better at transparency and accountability; Blatter, Platini and Warner do not like us but we have the best bid anyway.

    Spent £15m and got one other voting block to go along with you.

    In the end it was quite simple, nobody on FIFA liked you enough. What a shock.

  • Comment number 25.

    For all the inquiries, the fact is those who run the FA, like politicians, will never vote to change how things are run, they are on too much of a good thing with the gravy train. The expenses, the posh hotels, fancy foods, trips abroad, VIP treatment etc. etc., it'd be like turkeys voting for Christmas. There is no way they will ever make anything other than token changes to make it look like they've done something.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think our relationship with UEFA and FIFA is far too distant the is no dialogue as highlighted by the Rooney debacle. Whether this is due to percieved "arrogance" on our part I'm not so sure.
    I think the issue is that although the F.A is, without doubt, run as an old boys drinking club, we refuse to get involved with the politics and the "you scratch our backs (with a wad of dollar bills)" philosophy of FIFA and UEFA.
    The British, specifically the English, have never been liked within the corridors of power at UEFA and FIFA. You only have to look at the types of comments attributed to the likes of William Gaillard, Platini and Blatter over the years to understand that we are outsiders. That is a national identity problem more than a football issue.
    Yes, of course we can change how we run our national game and this will bring improvements domestically in terms of decision making etc, and internationally in terms of results on the pitch, but please lets not be fooled into thinking that we can ever get ourselves into the back pockets of the powers that be at FIFA and UEFA because I can assure you that we will (rightly) not go to the lengths of other nations to make friends with the right people. I'm sure you get my meaning...


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