10 February 2017
The Football Association (FA) is a not-for-profit organisation, which is the governing body and rule-making authority for association football in England. The workings of the governing body have been scrutinised by parliament’s Culture, Media and Sports (CMS) committee. The committee published a report entitled Football Governance in July 2011, and a follow-up report in January 2013. Both reports were critical of the FA's governance.
The CMS committee made it clear that if the FA was unable or unwilling to reform its governance the government should introduce legislation to do so. Despite some progress, many of the issues identified in the CMS reports have yet to be fully addressed by the FA.
In a subsequent development, in December 2016 Sport England and UK Sport jointly published a Code of Sports Governance (the 'Code'). The Code comes into effect from April 2017. The Code is designed to protect public investment in sport. The Code has five principles, and an associated set of mandatory requirements for all those organisations receiving public funding. Organisations, such as the FA, receiving higher levels of public funding are expected to meet the Tier 3 requirements of the Code. Currently, the FA does not meet the Tier 3 requirements of the Code.
The Minister of Sport stated in parliament (9th February 2017) that unless the FA takes corrective action to meet the requirements of the Code, it will lose the public grant funding it currently receives, and face the prospect of the government introducing regulation or legislation to force a change in its governance.
The requirements contained in the Code of Sports Governance are unlikely to cause those familiar with the HE codes of governance any surprise or difficulty. However, when set against the current (and historic) practices of the FA, they require further change to how it is governed. Some of the areas of concern are as follows:
The issues cited above reflect some of the concerns raised by the CMS committee. The pace and extent of reforms to the governance of the FA leaves open the question of whether the government will need to intervene to secure change. Meanwhile the evidence suggests the governance of the FA does not reflect the practice expected of an organisation receiving significant public funding, or charged with operating in the public interest. As was stated in parliament, the FA's time has almost run out.