MPs call for changes at FA after allegations of corruption

MPs call for changes at FA after allegations of corruption

British politicians and experts have called for sweeping changes at the Football Association following the publication of allegations of widespread corruption in the English game.

After a 10-month undercover investigation, the Daily Telegraph has reported claims that have already cost Sam Allardyce his job as England manager, as well as accusing 10 unnamed managers of taking bribes in player transfers.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, a member of the culture, media and sport select committee, said that the governing body must react swiftly but doubts it will be able to do so.

"It should set up an independent commission to look into these allegations but it is such an inherently weak organisation I don't think it could do what is needed now, even if it wanted to," said Collins.

"It is crippled by vested interests, its chairman is powerless and there are not enough independent voices around the table.

"The structure is just not fit for purpose and the current crisis reflects these deep-rooted cultural problems."

Collins added that the FA's woes look set to grow as the British government is introducing a new code of conduct later this year for any organisation that receives money for grass-roots sport from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, via the national sports councils.

If they fail to comply with this code, which is effectively a gold standard of corporate governance, the money will by-pass them and go to organisations with better structures. The FA got about £30m in the last four-year funding cycle.

Collins also suggested the government might be tempted to bring in legislation to underpin football's much criticised owners' and directors' test.

This would give it more teeth and enable it to be extended to cover transactions between agents, managers and other commercial interests.

Labour MP Clive Betts, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for football, disagreed that legislation was the way forward but backed Collins' calls for reform and said government should apply more pressure to bring that about.

"This is a very long-term problem and there is a lot of frustration that we are still talking about an FA that is backward-looking and cumbersome," Betts told PA Sport.

"There is also the imbalance of power within the organisation. The FA thought it was being very cute when it launched the FA Premier League as a counterbalance to its old enemy the Football League, but the child has outgrown the parent.

"Elsewhere, the FA governs all aspects of the game. Here it is half and half, which is why things are so disjointed."

Earlier today, UKsports minister Tracey Crouch issued a statement that made her feelings on the FA's need to become a better regulator obvious.

"The integrity of sport is absolutely paramount and we have been clear that we expect the highest standards of governance and transparency from sports governing bodies, here in the UK and on the international stage," said Crouch, referring to the strong line the UK has taken on corruption elsewhere.

"In this context, the recent allegations regarding English football are very concerning and we will be discussing the matter with the football authorities. All the evidence presented to them must be investigated fully and we stand ready to assist in any way we can."

For its part, the FA says it has beefed up its governance and administration team, which includes an integrity unit that investigates all cases of corruption, doping and match-fixing.

And having severed ties with Allardyce within 24 hours of the allegations about him being reported, the governing body has asked the Telegraph for its evidence of 'bungs' and other illicit payments. But some critics see these crises as entirely self-inflicted.

The University of Warwick's Dr David Webber, an expert on football governance, said the FA was "pathologically unable to make good decisions".

Referring to this summer's appointment of Allardyce, who had already been the subject of several media investigations, Webber said the FA's lack of accountability and long-term thinking meant it was doomed to keep repeating its mistakes.

"Serious questions need to be asked about who really runs the game in this country," said Webber.

The University of Salford's professor Simon Chadwick said the FA will "continue to lurch from catastrophe to catastrophe" until it starts to think more like a modern business.

"It's basic HR stuff, to be honest - Allardyce should have known exactly what he could and couldn't do, just as anybody else does when they start a new job," said Chadwick.

The criticism has not just come from outsiders, though, as earlier in the day former FA chairman David Bernstein told BBC Radio 5 Live that Allardyce should not receive a penny in compensation.

The 61-year-old former Bolton, Newcastle, Sunderland and West Ham boss left his dream job after just 67 days when current FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn told him he could not continue.

"I wonder whether there's a pay-off or not - I hope not, because I don't think 50 or 60 days' work merits a pay-off," said Bernstein.

"The hubris of it all is extraordinary. This is a man earning £3m a year."

Allardyce was filmed by undercover reporters talking about ways to "get around" the FA's "ridiculous" transfer rules, as well as making indiscreet comments about his predecessor Roy Hodgson, FA president Prince William and his brother Prince Harry, and the FA itself.

"We use the word 'respect' in football a lot," said Bernstein."This is incredibly disrespectful to Princes William and Harry, and it was very disrespectful to a man I've got a great deal of respect for, Roy Hodgson.

"I've got, frankly, very little sympathy."

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