NON-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK: Conference calls for stronger voice

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONWIDE Conference has this week spoken out against the imminent re-structuring of the Football Association which, it fears, will exclude the country's senior semi-professional league from the stewardship of the sport.

The protests from the Conference were timed to co-incide with this week's meeting of the FA's shareholders, which gave its approval to the reform programme previously agreed by the FA Council. The relevant part of the re-structuring plan will see a big reduction in the influence of the Council. Major commercial and business decisions will instead be taken by a new board of directors, with 14 members and an age limit of 70.

The composition of the board of directors is still under debate, and will not be finalised until next month. What is known is that it will include six representatives of non-professional football - the sector the FA now refers to as the "national game".

John Moules, the Chief Executive of the Conference, revealed to this newspaper yesterday that the FA had offered the Conference guaranteed representation on the new board, but that this offer had been withdrawn. Since then the Conference has tried in vain to arrange a meeting with the FA to discuss the re-structuring.

The FA also plans to set up a board to run the "national game", which will comprise the six representatives of non- professional football from the main board, eight Council members and one from schools football. The Conference is concerned that its influence will be restricted to this junior board, and that it may not have a voice on the senior board.

Although the Conference may yet be awarded one or more places on the main board, it still feels it is worth speaking out. "We are extremely concerned at the FA's proposals," Moules said. "They will have a dramatic impact on our game and it is worrying that the governing body has chosen not to discuss those areas which directly affect Conference clubs.

"Under the new proposals, the Association has once again omitted [us] from the decision-making forum. Rather than unite football, the new structure seems intent on maintaining the traditional divide.

"We have the clear danger," Moules added, "of Conference football being handed over to the jurisdiction of people who are not in a position to adequately represent our level of the game."

n Mark Wright, the former Liverpool and England defender, is the new manager of Southport.