Football: FA moves to pre-empt Task Force's findings

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The Independent Online
THE LONG-DELAYED final report of the Football Task Force will finally be released this morning, and it is already having an impact, with the Football Association moving to pre-empt some of the expected findings.

Sources within the FA last night revealed two new measures designed to improve regulation of the game and two further proposals to prevent financial abuse.

The FA, who inaugurated a streamlined executive last week, is to ask the government to help it establish an Independent Scrutiny Panel "to look at the performance of the FA and of the major leagues". The FA also intends to create a new advisory unit within Lancaster Gate to monitor the financial health of clubs.

It is intended that the Government, in conjunction with the FA, would appoint the scrutiny panel, which would be independent of the FA. This appears to be aimed at forestalling the recommendation, by football supporters' groups and others - including this correspondent - that the government should step in and regulate the sport. The advisory unit will be staffed by accountants and will concentrate on "identifying where problems could arise within clubs".

The FA are also considering introducing two new regulations. One is that the FA should act as a clearing house for all transfers involving English and foreign clubs. This would mean full identification of "who paid what to whom".

The other rule is designed to prevent a repeat of the problems at Brighton after the board sold the Goldstone before identifying a new ground. It would require clubs to "seek approval" from the FA before selling their ground. The grey area here is whether this can be enforced. An FA official last night suggested it has the right to withdraw a club's membership - and thus its right to play - but that would hardly deter an asset-stripper. Taken together these measures are a start and they do indicate an encouraging desire of the new FA executive to improve the game's management.

However, they do nothing to solve the problems of powerful individuals legally taking fortunes out of capitalised clubs, nor of the imbalance between rich and poor within the game, nor the obscene misuse of the television money which has flooded into the sport in recent years. Some of these issues will feature in this morning's Task Force Commercial Report and the divisions within the game are underlined by the expectation that it will be issued with two contrasting conclusions, one giving the views of the fans, one of the football authorities.

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