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FA to appoint independent directors

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The FA’s shareholders have approved a proposal regarding the introduction of two independent non-executive directors to the FA Board. An overwhelming 97 per cent of shareholders were in favour of the proposal – less than a year after the Football Supporters’ Federation had suggested they do just that.

The FA Board currently includes five representatives from the national (amateur) game and five representatives from the professional game, alongside the FA chairman and general secretary. The role of a non-executive director differs slightly from that of a director and they are often perceived to act in a more independent manner. This was eloquently summed up in the 2005 Burns’ Review which recommended structural changes to the FA.

Lord Burns said: “The essence of being independent is that such directors do not face conflicts of interest, unlike other members of the Board, whether they be executive, from the national game or from the professional game… being independent they are uniquely well-placed to judge difficult issues from the perspective of the FA, rather than that of the bodies represented on the FA.”

Speaking of yesterday’s decision, FA chairman David Bernstein, said: “This represents an important and significant change to the FA’s existing governance structure. The FA Board, Council and shareholders should be praised for their support of this initiative and I am delighted that I have been mandated to add appropriate independent representation to the Board.”

Bernstein added that the FA would “begin the process of recruiting suitable individuals who will strengthen and add to the breadth of experience of our FA Board.” Job descriptions are expected in “due course” and the FA Board will elect a nominations committee to manage the process.

In February 2011 the FSF’s chair Malcolm Clarke wrote to all FA Council members with the very same proposal that was passed yesterday. At that time only one per cent of the FA’s shareholders, which includes the 128-strong FA Council, backed the FSF’s proposal. But yesterday marked a significant turnaround in FA policy, aligning it to the FSF’s way of thinking.

“I’m very pleased that the proposal we made less than one year ago has been adopted by the FA,” said Clarke. “We agree with the evidence given by FA chair David Bernstein to the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee [that independent directors and reform were required]. This is an important first step to improving governance within the FA.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Ivan Lewis MP also welcomed the news: “I welcome today’s positive vote for change as an important first step in the reform of football governance. David Bernstein is to be congratulated on the leadership he has shown since becoming FA chairman. It is now essential football’s governing bodies work together to respond positively to the recent CMS select committee report.”

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