The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, today warned the football authorities that Government would push through legislation to reform the sport's governance if the recommendations of the forthcoming report from the department of culture, media and sport were not acted upon.
Robertson indicated the most sweeping changes will be required of the FA's Board, and once done the FA's Council should effectively be sidelined - a bonfire of the blazers. “The board should be reformed to have a better balance of people from within football and independent people from outside. There should be more women, more people from ethnic minorities, and more people who have played football. I want the board, once reformed, to be freed up to run the game as happens in other sports. That would include having overall control of a licensing system for clubs as against the current situation whereby the Premier League and Football League run their own systems.
He added: “I'm absolutely confident the football authorities are working for the good of the game, but we have an obligation to Parliament to see action is taken on the DCMS select committee report. Football must see this as an opportunity, not a threat. Only if progress stalls will the government bring forward legislation.” That said he added: “This is a genuine threat. I would be very surprised if we could not find time for legislation for this if it came to it.”
Should it come to that England could again face problems with Fifa who outlaw government involvement in football governance and could, in theory, threaten England, and English clubs, with suspension from all competition. This has happened with some countries, but never a major football power.
Robertson was reluctant to discuss Fifa reform, but revealed that David Cameron had been “intensely disappointed, very, very irritated,” at the fiasco of England's World Cup 2018 bid. The Prime Minister and Prince William both flew to Switzerland to pitch but England won only two votes from the 24 -member Fifa Executive committee, one of them from Englishman Geoff Thompson. “It was right to involve David Cameron and Price William,” said Robertson. “If you take on something like this you should throw everything at it. We were perhaps guilty of naivety. We had a very good football bid, but Fifa were looking for something else. If we had known that we would have told the FA not to spend £15m on it.”