Football

FA chairman: 'Change will happen and it'll be substantial'

English FA chairman Clarke promises to quit if reforms are not carried out

Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke has promised to step down if he fails to convince sports minister Tracey Crouch the governing body is serious about reforming itself.

However, Clarke has strongly denied the FA, which will be scrutinised in Parliament this week, is failing the national game.

His pledge to change the FA's governance structure or leave comes before the House of Commons debates a motion of "no confidence" in the association's ability to reform.

That debate this afternoon has been secured by Damian Collins MP, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee which has published two reports in recent years calling for an overhaul of the FA's board and council.

But, in a 700-word open letter published on Tuesday, Clarke wrote: "Our governance needs changing. We do need to be more diverse, more open about decision-making and we do need to better represent those playing the game.

"But we are not sitting idly by. The FA has a set of proposals to improve our governance which we will ratify and then take to the minister of sport in order to get her approval.

"Change won't be easy, but I am confident it will happen - and it will be substantial.

"Delivering real change is my responsibility and I firmly believe this is critical for the future of the game.

"If the Government is not supportive of the changes when they are presented in the coming months, I will take personal responsibility for that.

If the Government is not supportive of the changes when they are presented in the coming months, I will take personal responsibility for that. English FA chairman Greg Clarke, in a 700-word open lette

"I will have failed. I will be accountable for that failure and would in due course step down from my role."

The FA received £30 million (S$52.8m) from Sport England from 2013-17 for grassroots football, but has so far only been given £5.6m to support its disability and women's programmes for the next four years, with a decision on the rest of its grant hinging on Crouch's approval of its reform plans.

The FA believes the criticism is overdone and Clarke rejects Collins' claims the governing body is no longer fit for purpose.

He claimed that no other governing body in the world invests as much as it does, £65m last year, in grassroots football.

A former Leicester City chairman and Cable & Wireless chief executive, Clarke highlighted the growth of women's football, now England's third most popular team sport in terms of participation behind men's cricket, as an example of the FA's success.

He also lists the £22m the FA is investing in facilities and makes the point football authorities in other countries rarely have to do this as it is paid out of general taxation.

Clarke does, however, acknowledge the FA's recurring weak spot, the men's national team, but believes the creation of a centre of excellence at St George's Park will help all of England's 24 men's, women's, disability and youth teams.

"I hope Thursday's debate genuinely reflects all the work of the FA and the positive impact football has in communities up and down England," Clarke concluded.

"I am also confident when the time comes to present our changes to the minister, she will agree we are making positive and pro-active change." - PA SPORT

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