Will government really get tough with football?
The message to football from the government on Wednesday might look like an ultimatum but the reality is rather less severe.
None of the changes called for in their response to the select committee inquiry on the way football is run are particularly contentious or draconian.
Both the Premier League and the Football Association have responded warmly and that may prompt accusations that, for all the noise made by the MPs' hearings and ministers in recent months, there is still a lack of appetite to really tackle the problems facing the national game.
The most controversial issues are likely to be the ones highlighted by the government as "immediate priorities". These are:
*Reduce the main FA board - the key decision-making body - from 12 members to 10. And also change its composition to include two independent directors and two more FA executives (in addition to the chairman and general secretary, who are already represented). This could meet resistance from the professional game and national game (the leagues and the county FAs) who currently have five representatives each.
Previous attempts by government to get tough have failed - photo: PA
*Reform the FA Council to make it more representative of the game and limit council members' terms. At the moment FA committees, such as the FA Cup or international committee, report to the council. The select committee and the government says it should report to the reformed main board. Few people will care about this outside the FA but it could meet resistance from the council which ultimately votes on any major FA structural change.
*Set up a new football licensing system for clubs to regulate matters such as who owns them, debt, foreign ownership and supporter involvement. The Premier League and Football League have made big strides in these areas and for bigger clubs Uefa's new financial fair play regulations will cover many of the same areas. However, there is an apparent contradiction in the government's response. At one point it says it does not expect the leagues' rule books to be superseded. But then it says the FA should oversee the licensing system. Which is it? As ever the devil will be in the detail and the Leagues may agree to general principles, though retaining control over their own detailed rule books.
The football authorities have been given until 29 February to start making the changes. If football does not take action, then the government will look to introduce legislation to force the FA to change.
But this is a bit of a hollow threat. The government does not want to legislate on football and in fact may struggle to get a bill through Parliament which singles out just one sport.
Besides the government's programme of legislation for this Parliament is already full and it could take at least two years to pass.
A private member's bill could provide a short-cut and the response does say there are a number of other options they could look at so it should not be completely ruled out if the game circles the wagons. But there is no sign of that and FA chairman David Bernstein is already co-ordinating a review of the game's regulatory structure.
As for the deadline the government is unlikely to be too fussed if football does not make all these reforms by next February. What ministers seem to be saying is; make a start in the next six months and we will be happy. It is worth noting that the response insists football must agree proposals for plans, not actually implement them by this date.
Getting major changes into league rulebooks or passed by the FA shareholders (the FA's ultimate decision making body) could take a year to 18 months.
So all in all this is a gentle nudge to football rather than a gun to the head of the national game.
And remember previous attempts to get tough have failed. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson know this and are banking on the consensual approach finally delivering the reforms the sport and the FA so desperately need.