Sport

Groundbreaking government plans to interfere in FA slammed by Manchester City’s Supporters Club

By Jeremy Culley

The government’s threat to impose legislation on football authorities within 12 months – directly contradicting the views of a national fans’ body – has been condemned by Manchester City’s Supporters Club.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee risked incurring the wrath of FIFA by telling the FA in a report that it must impose reforms urgently or risk government interference in a year’s time.

The international football body disapproves of government interference in the sport – having previously suspended Nigeria after the country’s president banned the team from playing after a disappointing World Cup performance in 2010.

Kevin Parker, Chairman of City’s Supporters Club, challenged the indication of the government having a say in any sport.

These views fly in the face of those espoused by national body Supporters Direct, who welcomed the report, arguing a timetable for ‘proper change’ is now required.

The report, which Manchester MP John Leech contributed to, expressed the committee’s disappointment with the authorities’ responses to previous requests, with a will to change ‘glaringly absent’ from their actions.

It specifically drew attention to the excessive power exerted over the FA by the Premier League and the largely unaddressed absence of financial regulation in the sport so risk-taking from clubs would be deterred.

Mr Parker said: “We’ve got 150 years of the FA this year, I believe, and they have coped pretty well in that time.

“I’m not comfortable with the FA being told what to do by the government. The government might not even be here in 18 months.”

The pervasive influence of the Premier League in English football was also defended by Mr Parker

“It is a difficult one, the Premier League is what football is about in this country,” he said.

“They set the rules but the main interest in the game is on the Premier League. Sky does not pay the FA all that money for rights, it pays the Premier League.”

By comparison, Supporters Direct hailed the report’s consideration to fan needs, with a fairer distribution of wealth in the game and the removal of barriers to collective fan ownership objectives.

Their Chief Executive, David Lampitt, said: “The Committee has clearly been spurred on by what they called the ‘lack of direction and urgency’ of the football authorities and recognised a few minor changes do not add up to meaningful reform.

“A timetable for proper change is now required, backed up by government intervention if it is not delivered upon.

“It is supporters who sustain the game economically – whether through tickets or TV subscriptions – and who have the long terms interests of the game at heart.”

FIFA told MM they cannot speculate on how this issue might affect England’s membership but said they would monitor the situation over the next year.

But in 2011, their Director of Member Associations and Development, Thierry Regenass said: “If governments try to interfere in the running of associations, FIFA will intervene.

“In general, political interference is when a government tries to take direct control.”

Mr Parker added that, from City’s perspective, the move would clearly affect their interests.

“Obviously this is aimed at football clubs like City and Chelsea and we would be critical of the idea if it was in Argentina or South Africa,” he said.

“I totally oppose the idea of government intervention. It’s not very often I side with (FIFA President) Sepp Blatter, but I do here.”

In a joint statement, The FA, Premier League and Football League responded to the report: “Significant headway has already been made on many of these proposed reforms, not least on sustainability and transparency.

“The remaining reform proposals are the subject of consultation within the game and we are confident that the necessary progress will be made.”

Picture courtesy of Roosewelt PinheiroAbr, with thanks.

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