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More encouraging noises from Westminster on Football Governance - keep up the pressure


More encouraging noises from Westminster on reform of football. Thanks to all those members who have participated in lobbying activities over the last 2 years or so. We need to maintain the pressure.


Transcript from the Westminster Hall debate on Football Governance 


Westminster Hall - 9 February 

Football Governance

[Relevant documents: Seventh Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2010-12, HC 792, and the Government Response, Cm 8207.]

Motion made, and Question proposed ,That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Greg Hands.)

2.30 pm

Mr Dai Havard (in the Chair): For the benefit of people in the Public Gallery and everyone else, I should make it clear that today’s debate is about the Select Committee’s report entitled “Football Governance”, which makes recommendations to the Government, and the Government have responded. Both documents are available for hon. Members. I hope that we have a constructive discussion. I call the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to introduce the debate.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Havard, and to have the opportunity to discuss the Select Committee’s report on football governance. This was a substantial inquiry by the Committee. It is worth remembering why the Committee decided that this was an important issue that deserved examination. There were two reasons, the first of which was the clear commitment given by both the parties that now form the coalition Government. It was clear that action needed to be taken, particularly to assist and encourage supporters to have greater involvement in the ownership and running of football clubs. That commitment appears plainly in the coalition agreement, although it was perhaps slightly less clear on precisely how it should be delivered. The Committee thought that it might be in a position to help the Government by taking evidence, examining that question and making recommendations.

However, this was not just about supporter involvement, although that is a very important element. It rapidly became apparent to us that there was quite significant concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the general state of our national game. A debate in this Chamber was extremely well attended by hon. Members, many of whom spoke up about the difficulties facing their local football clubs. There was widespread concern that something was wrong with the game. Perhaps that was best summed up by my hon. Friend the Minister, who famously described football as the “worst-governed sport” in England. I have to say that in the course of the Committee’s inquiry, we did not find much evidence to contradict what he said. However, we also found much to admire and praise about English football. There is no question but that it arouses huge passions up and down the country.

As I said, this was a substantial inquiry. We received more than 100 submissions of evidence. We held eight oral evidence sessions, to hear from every component part of the game. The Committee went on a number of

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visits. We went to Manchester City football club to see the huge investment that has taken place under its new owners. They have taken the club from the bottom levels to the top levels of the premier league. We went to Arsenal to see the Emirates stadium and to meet the management there. We held oral evidence sessions at Wembley stadium and Burnley football club. We also went to Germany. Looking at Germany’s model of licensing football clubs was a particularly influential part of our inquiry. It made quite an impact on the Committee.

I will not go through the whole report in detail, because many hon. Members are present and want to contribute and I hope that most of them have already read the report and are familiar with our findings.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way before he goes into the report?

Mr Whittingdale: I will of course give way to my colleague on the Committee.

Paul Farrelly: I apologise that I cannot stay for the whole debate because of constituency engagements. Does the Chairman of the Select Committee agree that the centrepiece of the report is the recommendation that the Football Association reassert its role as the sport’s ultimate governing body—in particular, through a licensing system, which he has just mentioned, and a modern, effective form of governance that would not allow, for example, the FA to be bounced into a naive renegotiation of the England manager’s contract as it was?

Mr Whittingdale: The hon. Gentleman—he is really a friend on the Committee—encapsulates the report in a couple of sentences very well. I am almost tempted to say that he has done my job for me and finished my speech. Yes, there is no question but that we felt that at the heart of the reforms that were necessary was the game’s governance structure: ultimately, the FA. I will go on to talk about that in more detail. I did not intend to talk at great length about the management of the England football team, although that is obviously a matter of great interest and debate today. I heard the Minister’s remarks during Culture, Media and Sport questions a few hours ago, and I entirely agreed with him. I am sure that the matter will crop up again during the debate.

Before I move to the report’s main recommendations, I want to pay tribute to three people. The first two were our expert advisers: Christine Oughton and Rick Parry, who provided enormously helpful experience and wise advice to the Committee. We relied a lot on their input throughout our inquiry.

The third person to whom I should pay tribute, particularly in a debate on football governance, is our late colleague on the Committee, Alan Keen. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Alan was the senior member of the Committee. He was a member of it before I became Chairman. Football was his passion. He chaired the all-party group on football. He was very—I am tempted to say keen—eager that we should embark on this inquiry. It was a great sadness to us that, because of his illness, he was not able to play as great a part in the

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inquiry as he would have liked. He is certainly greatly missed. It is only right in a debate on football that we pay tribute to him.

Some people asked why the Committee was looking at football at all, because it is a huge success in many respects. The Premier League is probably the most successful in the world. It has an average attendance of 350,000 people each weekend and about 92% occupancy. The second league—the Football League—gets average attendances of 375,000. Some £2 billion of revenue comes into the Premier League. There is no question but that the top English clubs are watched not just throughout this country, but in almost every country in the world. It is hard to go into a bar in any country and not see a screen in the corner showing the premier league. To that extent, it is hugely successful. There were those who said, “In that case, why are you bothering to spend this time looking at it? Why don’t you go off and look at other things?” But we found that there was widespread concern about the underlying state of the game. That was felt right across football and among followers of football.

Despite the huge revenues that come in, very few clubs trade profitably. The main reason for that is the extraordinary amount of money paid out on players’ salaries. The consequence is that debt has become an enormous problem throughout the game. Debt kept coming up as one of the principal issues causing concern. More than half of Football League clubs have gone into administration at some stage since 1992, and all operate on very narrow margins. The net debt of the Premier League clubs is £2.6 billion. Some people would say that that in itself may not be a problem. Indeed, there will be clubs that operate with quite significant debt, but as long as they can service that debt and trade, it is not necessarily something that need be addressed immediately. However, there is no question but that the debt is a major issue. We were told by the chairman of the Football League, for instance, that it was the issue that kept him awake at night.

There is also concern about ownership, which is not wholly dissociated from the question of debt. That, too, was something that we considered. As the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) suggested, we decided that if we were to address the problem, the most important thing that needed to be tackled was governance. Therefore, we wanted to establish, right from the start—this may seem self-evident, but it was not necessarily self-evident—that the FA is the ruling body of football. The FA therefore needs to be reformed if we are to get this right.

Some years ago, Lord Burns produced an extremely good report, which made a number of recommendations for reform. When we heard from him, some of his recommendations had been accepted. They included the incorporation of the FA chairman and chief executive on to the FA board, but they were still waiting to bring on the two independent non-executive directors. Progress, I believe, has been made since then.

Terry Burns told us that, if anything, he felt that he had been too timid and that he would have liked to have gone further in involving non-executive directors. Indeed, we heard from one former chief executive of the FA that he wanted an entirely independent, non-executive

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FA board. We felt that that was not wholly realistic. We were also clear that, as in most corporate structures, the board needed to be relatively streamlined to be effective.

After some debate, we decided to recommend that the right size for the FA board was 10, and that it should include the chairman and chief executive of the FA, the two non-executives and two more of the FA executive directors—in particular, the director of football development. Alongside them, we decided that there should be two representatives of the professional game—presumably one from the Premier League and one from the Football League—and two representatives of the national game. Although we understood the reasons why others, such as supporters, players and managers, wanted representations, we felt that that could make the board unwieldy. Therefore, we felt that we had come up with the right composition.

At the same time, we also felt that there needed to be reform of the FA council, which is an extraordinary and enormous body. It dates back many years to include representatives from Oxford and Cambridge, the three separate services and the public schools, but very few representatives of players and people who actually watch football. We therefore felt that that was something that needed to be addressed. We were also slightly concerned that the meetings started at 11 o’clock and finished at lunchtime and that some of the members of the FA council seemed to have been there for 50 years or more. We felt that there was a need to address the composition of the council, the tenure of its membership and the form of its meetings. We felt very strongly that the council should be a parliament and not an executive decision-making body.

Once those governance reforms are in place, we will be able to move forward to tackle some of the underlying difficulties affecting the game. I have talked about debt, so the next is financial management. We welcomed the introduction of UEFA’s new financial fair play rules, which will affect those clubs that have ambitions to play in European matches. We felt that the principles underlying the financial fair play rules were absolutely right; they commanded a lot of support and should be applied throughout football.

One aspect of the financial management of clubs that caused considerable concern to the Committee was the football creditors’ rule. I have absolutely no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) may talk about that a little more, because he particularly pursued that issue during our discussions. Although we could see the reasons why that rule was in place, we felt that it was unfair on creditors, as they were often small firms in local communities that had supported the local team. If that team gets into difficulty and goes into administration, they have to go to the back of the queue after all the football creditors before having their debts paid. We felt that that was unfair, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will say more about that.

One aspect that I have taken a long-standing interest in and that still creates significant potential difficulties is the ruling of the European Court on broadcasting rights and territorial sales, the full implications of which we are still waiting to see. It could have a very damaging effect and it is of concern not just to certain broadcasters but to a large number of people involved in football.

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As for how we enforce the financial fair play rules and the other necessary changes, we were impressed by what we saw in Germany. Germany has a licensing model and we saw the way in which it was used to ensure that the clubs do not trade beyond their means for long periods. We saw how they were required to follow certain rules specified by the Bundesliga. We decided that if we were to achieve our changes, we needed a national licensing scheme. The best body to administer that is clearly the FA. Therefore, the other main thrust of our recommendations was that we should move to a licensing scheme under the FA, which should address issues such as the financial management of the game, the sale of stadiums, investment in youth development and all the other areas where, understandably, concerns have been raised. It could also address ownership.

Foreign ownership in the game is not necessarily a bad thing. After we saw what Sheikh Mansour had done in Manchester City, we could understand why the fans had great banners up saying, “Long live Sheikh Mansour.” However, there are other who are less committed to the development of clubs. We also felt that the fit and proper person test, which is necessary, had not always been as effective as it might have been. Indeed, we debated long and hard about what someone had to do to fail the fit and proper person test in English football.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): My hon. Friend is talking sense on the fit and proper person test which seems to be honoured more in its breach. Going back to overseas ownership, does he feel that there should be a different regime for football clubs compared with the rest of the UK economy? If so, how does he see that operating?

Mr Whittingdale: The truth is there will be different regimes governing the ownership of football clubs. For this particular aspect, a slightly different regime should apply. I am not against the principle of foreign ownership. Just as I do not have a kneejerk response to foreign ownership in football, the same is true of the wider economy. To some extent, there are special factors, but I am not opposed to overseas ownership per se.

Let me pay one word of tribute. When the Committee visited Burnley FC, we were well entertained by the chairman of the club, Barry Kilby. In many ways, he represents all that is best about local ownership. He was a business man who had been successful in his community and had put back a huge amount into Burnley FC. His passion for the club was undoubted. Therefore, a strong local owner can bring great benefits.

Paul Farrelly: Will the Committee Chairman extend the same compliments to Peter Coates, who is chairman of Stoke City? The Chairman may be aware that I have been supporter of the club since I was five years old.

Mr Whittingdale: I am very happy to pay the same tribute to Peter Coates. As an aside, let me say that the rest of the Committee used to enjoy having a sweepstake on how long it would take the hon. Gentleman to mention Stoke City during our deliberations. I am glad that he has done so today.

The issue that I want to finish on is the one that we set out to address, which is that of supporter ownership and involvement. It is a crucial factor, and the Government

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are right to say that it should be encouraged. It is unrealistic to say that the top Premier League clubs are likely to be owned by their supporters, but there are some clubs lower down that are already supporter owned and more should be done to help supporters’ trusts that want to become owners. For example, there was some concern about the way in which the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 operates. It causes difficulties for supporters, and we thought that the Government might address that. We thought that when supporters’ trusts have minority stakes, there might be some merit in giving them protection, so that if a club is acquired and the 90% threshold is reached, they are not necessarily forced to give up their ownership to the new owner. There are several areas where we would like clubs if not formally to give a role to supporters, to involve them much more in decision making and with information.

One club that we visited, and whose supporters are extremely involved through the fanshare scheme, is Arsenal. When the Minister came before us, I raised the fact that Arsenal’s new owner had not then given a public commitment to support the fanshare scheme. My understanding is that he has still not done that, and I think the Minister said that he might encourage him to do so. That is an example of an active supporters’ organisation and how it can play a valuable role if the club ownership recognises it.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman’s Committee for the work that it has done in this area. The recommendation for a fan liaison officer is a good idea. Supporters up and down the land are crying out for that. Can the Chairman of the Committee offer any hope that that might be made to happen?

Mr Whittingdale: I think that that is a matter more for my hon. Friend the Minister than for me, but I certainly agree that it is something to be encouraged, and that fan liaison officers can play a valuable role. I am sure that my hon. Friend will touch on that.

I thank the Minister for the Government’s extremely positive response to the report. He could not have done more to make it clear that they want its recommendations to be implemented. I think he and I take the same view that it is not desirable for the Government to legislate, but that the matter is so important that if that is what must happen, it will happen. I hope that we will not come to that, and he may be able to say a little more about the state of discussions. He made it clear today that the deadline of 29 February is still in place, and I hope that all those involved in football who may listening this afternoon will be spurred on to ensure that the sort of reforms that we think are necessary are achieved by that deadline.

Mr Dai Havard (in the Chair): Order. Given the number of hon. Members who wish to speak and the time constraint, Members should estimate to speak for 10 minutes, and plan do so for eight minutes.

2.52 pm

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): That is a tall order, Mr Havard. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon. I was not a member of the Select Committee at the time of the inquiry into

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football governance, but it is reasonable to argue from the tone of the Committee’s report and the Government’s response that the topic has been debated in a good spirit, and I wish to continue that. I am in the unique and fortunate position of being the only Member of Parliament to have two Premier League football clubs in my constituency—Everton and Liverpool. I cut my parliamentary teeth leading a well-attended Westminster Hall debate on this very issue way back in September 2010.

Before I begin my speech in earnest, I want to take the opportunity to echo the comments by the Chair of the Select Committee about Alan Keen, and to send my condolences and, I am sure, those of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber to the families of the 75 supporters who were killed recently at a football stadium in Egypt. No matter which club we support, we are all part of the wider football family, and that loss is a football tragedy as well as a human one.

Football is one of our country’s undoubted successes, and we are the home of the beautiful game. We are also the home of the best and most competitive leagues in the world. Children from around the globe are dreaming about the chance to play football at Wembley, the Emirates stadium, Stamford Bridge, Goodison Park, Anfield, and perhaps even Old Trafford. Wealthy tycoons are dreaming of the Premier League promised land. They are attracted to English football as a way of investing their money and seeing the best players in the world play for their clubs to an extent not seen in other countries.

Despite the merits of other leagues such as the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue Une and Serie A, it is the Premier League and even the championship that attracts international investors, because they continue to offer the best that football has. Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan are the only two owners with an unlimited pot of money, and who are capable of injecting copious amounts into their respective clubs. Today, some clubs, such as Tottenham, are plcs and listed on the stock market. Others, such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Blackburn and Sunderland, are owned by professional sport investors. Others seem to be owned for the prestige—for example, Fulham, which is owned by Mohammed al Fayed. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) may speak about that.

However, some takeovers reinforce the point that football clubs are simply economic entities to be bought and sold like any other commodity, which completely neglects the broader social impact that clubs have in their local communities and beyond. The result for many clubs in recent times has been to chart a course that is perilously close to the brink. Portsmouth, which I think we will also hear about, ran up debts totalling £119 million, and it is still far from fiscal safety. Southend United and Cardiff City recently managed to pay their debts just before the taxman’s axe was wielded. Several other clubs have suffered administration, such as Southampton, Darlington, Crystal Palace, Wimbledon, Hornchurch and Scarborough. Leeds United, which was probably the biggest victim of all, was allowed to play in the Football League despite no one knowing who owned the club.

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In 2009, the all-party group on football found that the group most under-represented in the game was those who should have the most say—the fans. One of the biggest problems with football governance is that at most levels of the game those who pay for it are excluded from the decision-making structures in clubs, leagues and even governing bodies. In pursuit of a global phenomenon, which we have achieved with the Premier League, we failed properly to regulate our national obsession.

I do not pretend that there is a simple answer, but a major problem that needs to be addressed is the fit-and-proper-person test, to which the Chair of the Select Committee has referred. It is an absolute sham. If it were not, the majority of aforementioned clubs would never have been in the position they were because of owners who abused the system and played fast and loose with football clubs that are the pillars of communities across Britain.

Mark Field: All too often, clubs in appalling financial difficulty grasp at the nearest straw like a drowning man. There may be only one individual who can save the club, but they may not pass the fit-and-proper-person test in a meaningful way. However, if the choice is that person or the club going bust, one understands why the former choice is made, albeit one that leads to other difficulties further down the line. How does the hon. Gentleman envisage getting round that problem if the alternative is for a club to go bankrupt and to spiral out of the league, as has happened to several former league clubs in recent years?

Steve Rotheram: That is exactly the point, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) will talk about his beloved football club, and the fact that that happens too often for the problem not to be tackled. That is exactly what the Select Committee set out to do—to consider what recommendations we could suggest on a non-party political basis to ensure that the football authorities have to take cognisance of such issues, and include football fans in the governance of their football teams.

We cannot pretend that one size fits all, because it does not. We need a proactive approach to redress the imbalance in football governance, an imbalance that has seen some owners and directors of football clubs using them like playthings that can be thrown aside when they become bored, while the fans—the lifeblood of any club—are pushed further and further away from the decision-making process. A more inclusive approach would probably not be universally popular among football’s elite. Indeed, I spoke to one senior representative of a football club who said that he did not want the lunatics to run the asylum. I am a bit fed up with seeing fans given the rough end of the stick. They are treated by some club owners as an irritant or a problem, but yet they are expected to be part of the solution when those errant owners disappear, leaving the club in financial crisis.

Supporters Direct is leading a new initiative that I think deserves more focus. It builds on the ideas and recommendations made by the Committee and on the Government’s response regarding the implementation of a new licensing framework that is impartial and independent of the reformed FA board. I welcome the changes to the FA at board level.

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It is crucial that impartiality is maintained because that will ensure total transparency which, we will all agree, has been missing from the FA for some time. We must, however, give credit where it is due, and there have been welcome introductions since David Bernstein’s appointment. I hope, however, that the chairman of the FA will not rest on his laurels, and that he will do something about the current ludicrous situation that allows football managers to profit from the sale of players. Regardless of what has happened over the past 24 hours, that immorality remains, and if ever there were a conflict of interest, that is it.

There are two dimensions to the licensing framework proposed by Supporters Direct:

“Promotion of financial and social responsibility, and balancing of the supporting, commercial and social objectives of clubs.”


“To ensure that clubs and their assets are protected for current and future generations.”

Supporters Direct has stated:

“The framework for supporter and community engagement should provide rights for supporters on behalf of the community subject to conditions…Rights would be granted to a ‘Fit and Proper Supporters’ Trust’ for engagement with their clubs.”

The level of engagement would increase according to the degree of development of the “fit and proper” supporters’ trust. If such a measure were implemented, it would give fans a voice at the top table.

I believe that football fans would use the opportunity to nominate a trusted supporter to make informed decisions—it is the big society writ large. I am aware of some football clubs that would hold an election and offer season ticket holders, as well as club members, the opportunity to vote for a candidate on the basis of a quasi-manifesto set of pledges.

Supporters Direct has stated:

“The co-operative ownership of football clubs via supporters’ trusts thus offers huge benefits not only to the way that the game is run, but also to local communities.”

Although I recognise that there will always be a tension between financial and social returns, the football world is starting to realise that a greater balance needs to be struck. We are starting to see a yearning for the greater involvement of supporters in football governance not only in the UK, but across Europe.

Another proposal is for the reformed FA board to consider ways to increase the number of ex-footballers in boardrooms. Such a move would appease the grumblings of many fans who believe that directors are not “football people” but are out-of-touch businessmen. That is currently the case at Blackburn Rovers, a club that is rich in history and has fantastic loyal support.

Despite becoming a global phenomenon with a worldwide audience, football is not immune to external forces outside the control of its internal market. Lessons must be drawn from disasters such as the global financial crash. All bubbles have the potential to burst. Football needs a regulatory framework and a governance structure that is as transparent as reasonably practicable.

I am confident that there is the political will in the Chamber and the DCMS to make progress. I hope that that continues, and that the Minister will take on board the strength of feeling on this issue.

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3.4 pm

Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Havard. I know that many hon. Members wish to speak, so I will try to be brief. I welcome equally the report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and the Government response. We should pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister. He has been robust in his criticism of football’s current governance arrangements, and he has insisted on a response to those criticisms by the end of the month. I know he is confident that he will get a reply, and perhaps when he responds to the debate he will say what sort of content he expects that reply to contain.

We all accept that the English game is played to a very high standard, and we know that 8 million fans have already watched premiership games this season. Six premiership teams have taken part in the past 10 finals of the European championships, and we have fantastic football in this country. We cannot, however, say the same things about what takes place inside the boardroom, or the governance of the game, that we say about the quality of the playing. All too often, fans have to worry about issues such as debt and ownership, rather than performance on the pitch. Fans are losing out because of the ridiculously high price of a premiership season ticket, or because many of our top-flight clubs still do not have adequate facilities for disabled fans. Fans and clubs that want to introduce safe standing do not have the opportunity to do so, and many of the clubs that are lower in the league are in difficulty because they are obliged to adhere to ludicrously inappropriate rules such as those on transfer windows.

There is much to sort out. The predominant areas of concern expressed by the Committee were, quite rightly, those of money and governance.

Paul Farrelly: The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the central role that football plays in communities because he is the Member for Bath, where rugby has a similar role. Does he agree that one key task for a governance regime in football is that of fostering a game where the finances are sustainable? People involved in the premiership, such as David Gill of Manchester United and Peter Coates of Stoke City, have broadly welcomed the thrust of the Committee’s report. It would therefore be surprising and disappointing if the FA, which has acted so decisively over the England captain and manager, did not welcome the reassertion of its role, and the means by which to do that.

Mr Foster: I hope the hon. Gentleman proves to be right and we will hear about the response on that issue that the Minister will receive. He is right to mention his concern for the sustainability of finance in football. As we heard from the Chair of the Committee, although the level of debt has been declining, in the premiership it still stands at £2.6 billion. Some 68% of its income is currently being spent on players, rather than on other important things.

If we compare the premiership with the rest of European football, we discover that the English premiership has more than 50% of the total debt held by all the leading clubs in Europe. Last season, the championship declared its highest ever level of debt at £133 million, and we know that it is spending about £4 for every £3 that it generates. That is not sustainable. It is vital to welcome

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UEFA’s proposals, and they will be implemented even though they will not affect all the clubs in this country. That is why the licensing proposals are so critical.

UEFA’s proposals are key. A report by Deloitte published today reflects much of what it said in its 2011 report, and points out that although there have been a lot of false dawns, the UEFA proposals may provide the key to moving forward and to financial sustainability. As it said in its 2011 report, however,

“the more things change, the more they stay the same. While football’s revenue performance has been spectacular, sustainably managing its costs remains football’s primary business challenge.”

That is a key issue that the Select Committee’s report and the UEFA proposals seek to address, which I welcome.

I also very much welcome the proposals from the Select Committee on governance of the game. It is right that the FA be the leading body for football in this country, and it must take charge of many of the deliberations that take place in the 14 different committees. It is ludicrous that so many of them report, not to the board, but to the council. The key people making the decisions are therefore at a distance from the considerations of those various committees. The Select Committee was quite right to suggest that the board must be slimmed down. We should all welcome the moves to bring non-executives on to the board, but clearly more must be done to move forward and slim down.

Reform of the FA council itself is equally important. The Chair of the Select Committee has already made it clear how inappropriate the current arrangements are. I was interested in what Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said:

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