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Football governance “requires emergency surgery” – MP tells Commons

In a Ten Minute Rule Bill brought to the House of Commons today, former sports minister Helen Grant said the country’s football governance requires radical reform to protect the game’s future.

Grant has been working with the “Our Beautiful Game” group to lobby for the creation of an independent regulator and following publication of their report, led to her intervention in Parliament today.

“The governance of English football is broken,” Grant told MPs. “Our national game, the beautiful game is in crisis.

“These issues are not new but have been laid bare and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which sadly football has failed to speak with one voice. We’ve seen much loved clubs go to the wall.”

Grant’s bill seeks legislation to create an independent regulator that would govern all of English football from grassroots to the top tier. Its remit would include:

  • Distribute funds in the interest of the wider game of football
  • Introduce a comprehensive licensing system for professional clubs
  • “Review thoroughly” the causes of financial stress in the game
  • Bring forward reforms to “modernise and strengthen” the FA
  • Work with supporter groups to advance causes that really matter to them
  • Drive the promotion of diversity and inclusion in football.

Grant argued that European countries such as Germany, France and Spain had superior governance, and said English football governance was being left behind.

She also told MPs that the game’s current regime of self-regulation had failed and needed radical reform.

“Even as I speak today, the Premier League are midway through a lengthy governance review of their own,” Grant said. “But to me this feels like students marking their own homework.

“Does anyone seriously expect them to make the radical and fundamental change needed across the game? I think not.

“Our football governance needs emergency surgery. And it needs that surgery now.”

Supporters have long argued that the game’s governance needs urgent reform and Grant’s bill asks for many of the measures fans have been calling for for years.

The FSA has consulted with the “Our Beautiful Game” group, made up of high profile football industries figures such as David Bernstein and Gary Neville, to advise on what supporters want to see from governance reforms.

As the major national body that represents football supporters, the FSA has continued to push for the Government to deliver on its manifesto commitment to a “fan-led review” of the game’s governance.

FSA chief executive Kevin Miles said: “We are sympathetic to the strains on Government imposed by the pandemic, but given the stresses on football now, we share the feeling of urgency about the need to make progress with reform.”

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