‘Grab the nettle’: Ex-FA chairman David Bernstein urges government to reform football

Bernstein believes an independent regulator is required to save an ‘unhealthy’ game

Sports Staff
Friday 15 January 2021 08:52
Premier League rejects Project Big Picture

Former Football Association chairman David Bernstein has called for an independent regulator to take charge of the game, describing it as "unhealthy" and "out of balance".

The FA is looking for a new chairman after Greg Clarke resigned in November, apologising for using offensive language in comments he made to a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

Bernstein, who was chairman between 2011 and 2013, highlighted a number of areas of concern, including the now defunct Project Big Picture, the link between football and dementia and the sport's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Breaking down Bernstein and Neville’s manifesto

Bernstein told TalkSport: "In the short term I would like to see the appointment of an independent regulator and, rather than go down the route of another review, of which we've had so many to so little effect over so many years, I would like to see the Government grasp the nettle here and appoint a regulator to deal with a whole range of really key issues, which are distorting, I think, our national game.

David Bernstein believes government intervention is required

"You've had Project Big Picture, which was an attempt really by the big six clubs to take a very powerful position in football and failed miserably. You've got an FA chairman resigning because of outmoded views on a number of things.

"You've got a huge difficulty in putting together a funding package and, when it was put together, the Championship part of it consists of possibly £200m of loans.

"You've got the long-standing issues of brain damage to players with heading and so on - that's dragged on for years, it hasn't been brought to a conclusion, and it's a national scandal frankly. And now you've got this whole issue of players' behaviour, which I think is causing potentially a lot of problems.

"In spite of the wealth of the Premier League, the game is fundamentally unhealthy and fundamentally out of balance.

"I think it would be possible for a regulator over a two or three-year period to do what's necessary and then maybe hand back authority to a reformed FA. But it would need to be a modernised, reformed, independent Football Association."

In response, the FA referred the statement it issued in October.

The statement read: "The Football Association plays a vital role in governing and regulating English football and our league structure and ecosystem is the envy of the world.

"We work hard to maintain this system, with a clear focus on the wider game; not just serving the elite level, but the whole football pyramid and throughout the grassroots game.

"The FA has a clear direction and ambitious targets to ensure English football continues to be a force for good across every level of the game."

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport spokesperson said: "We have been consistently clear that football clubs are a vital part of their local communities and must be protected, as we work to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Whilst our priority is the immediate future of clubs, we continue to have regular discussions with the football authorities on the future direction of the sport, and how to ensure it is sustainable.

"We have committed to a review of football governance, with input from fans, and will announce further details in due course."


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