English FA set for key changes

LONDON: England’s Football Association faces sweeping changes following a critical report on the way the ruling body runs the sport. 

Calls for wide-ranging reform are made in an open letter on Friday to everyone involved in the game from Terence Burns, who is a month away from completing a structural review of the FA. 

His main target is the FA’s system of having a board, charged with dealing with financial issues, and a council, which is expected to look after purely footballing matters. 

“Unfortunately, this may have created more problems than it has solved ... there are almost no football issues that do not have a financial side to them, and vice-versa,” Burns said in his letter. 

As a result, he added: “Lines of responsibility are blurred, roles overlap and there is a lack of clarity as to where the final decision rests.” 

The make-up of the 14-man board, which includes representatives from the professional and amateur leagues, is described as “a recipe for delay and even deadlock”. 

The 92-strong council, with members from pro soccer and county associations, is criticised for not being representative enough – lacking the likes of players, managers, fans and referees along with the voice of minority groups. 

Summing up the problems facing the FA, founded in 1863, Burns said: “I am clear that the present structures of the FA are in need of substantial reform. 

“The lack of clarity of responsibility, the difficulty in reaching decisions, and the substantial frustration and tension that exists as a consequence, together undermine the authority and effectiveness of the organisation.” 

As for reforms, Burns proposes a revamped board with independent non-executive directors, brought in from outside the FA for their ability to “judge finely-balanced issues more objectively”. 

The board would be ultimately responsible for the FA’s strategy and performance, as it is in most organisations, while the council would expand to include all those currently not represented. 

Burns also proposes scrapping the practice of having one person, currently Geoff Thompson, as chairman of both bodies. Instead, once Thompson’s mandate ended, the board and council could each have their own chairmen. 

He also called for disciplinary and regulation issues, which are currently spread among various committees, to be dealt with by a semi-autonomous Regulation and Compliance Unit. 

Burns told a news conference he was not surprised by the number of changes anticipated by his review. 

“If tinkering was all that was needed, it would have been done,” he said. He defended the FA from the charge of 'incompetence’ levelled by some respondents to his review. 

“I do not subscribe to the view that it has an easy task and that it’s simply doing it badly,” he said. 

“I think they are quite difficult tasks and that it has a structure at the moment which makes those difficult tasks more difficult to achieve – and that’s what I’m trying to resolve.” 

The FA said it welcomed Burns’ letter, adding “the broad conclusions he has come to so far will be studied closely by everybody who cares about the future of the national sport”. – Reuters 

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