Sutcliffe unhappy with FA

Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe today demanded the Football Association fulfil its obligations by showing stronger leadership in its governance of the sport.

Sutcliffe wrote to the FA, Premier League and Football League after they replied individually to seven questions put to them last year by then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

He criticised the brevity and content of the FA's response, which compared unfavourably with those returned by the Premier and Football Leagues.

A key area has been the slow progress made in addressing the recommendations of the 2005 review conducted by Lord Burns, which set out to modernise the FA by making it stronger and more transparent.

Sutcliffe has requested greater urgency in implementing the reforms promised in the wake of the Burns report.

"We wanted a joint response to the questions. Why couldn't all three bodies respond together? That was the first disappointment," said Sutcliffe.

"Then for the FA to say they hadn't the power to comment on all the issues we raised with them sent a strong message to me that we must make sure it plays a full role as the governing body of the framework that the leagues operate in.

"I wanted to see a greater pace and greater understanding of how the game is changing and how the challenges that we are facing need to be addressed. The FA should be leading the way.

"We sent the letter last year and have given adequate time for the responses, but we won't continue with the paper chase.

"What needs to happen now is we've set out some challenges and must sit down with the guys, individually to start with and then collectively, to make sure we address those issues.

"We need to turn this into an active, ongoing discussion where we get some outcomes.

"The Government first got involved in discussions with the FA in 2005 and the FA commissioned the Burns report which the Government supported. But it has not been fast enough.

"We keep reminding the FA of what their own report says. We want them to act upon that and we're sure that they will."

Sutcliffe played down the possible repercussions should the FA fail to act, but highlighted the size of the Government's financial contribution to football.

"There are all sorts of levers we can use but I don't want to make threats because we're not in that type of environment. I know we'll get a positive response," he said.

"We fund football through the Whole Sport Plan for £25million and contribute £15million to the Football Foundation each year."

The FA have been urged to introduce two independent, non-executive directors to its board and to improve the growth of the game for women and ethnic minorities.

"I want to see things like coaching and the women's game to be developed. We need to have an elite women's league," said Sutcliffe.

"There are also issues that we put to the Premier League like transparency and openness.

"The need for two independent directors to be on the board is very strong and that's recognised by the FA.

"I hope they will act on it very quickly. You need to have people who represent that wider voice.

"It's happened in other sports and we want to see the same in football."

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