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Government issues FA with deadline to reform or face legislation

English football's governing bodies, the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League, have been given a deadline of 29 February next year to act on government-backed recommendations or face having legislation imposed on the sport.

The recommendations include changes to the management structure of the FA, the introduction of a new licensing system for clubs to be overseen by the FA, which would include the scope for greater fan representation on club boards and automatic release of players to England age-group sides.

The Government also called on football authorities to launch a "high-profile and well-resourced campaign to tackle homophobia" supported at the highest level through the "use of well-known players." Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, said yesterday: "More needs to be done in football, and sport, to address this issue."

Should the changes not be in place by the start of next season, the Government could legislate, although it believes the three football bodies will be receptive to the proposals.

The Government was responding to a report by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. Robertson said: "This country is hugely passionate about our national game and there are many reasons we should be pleased with how it has progressed over the last two decades.

"However, I believe that there are improvements that can be made in the governance arrangements, which have failed to keep up with the changing pace of the modern game. I do not want government to run football, so this is an opportunity for the football family to work together to benefit the game in the long term."

Part of the conditions of the club licence would be greater supporter representation and involvement in clubs. The Manchester United Supporters Trust yesterday said they were "delighted" with the proposals, which "actively encourage" supporter representation on the board.

There are also recommendations to see the FA board slimmed down to 10 with a drop in the representatives from the professional game from five to two, a fall that may not go down well at the Premier League. The three bodies are "considering" their response.