Premier League boss accuses ex-FA chiefs of 'cheap shot'

Premier League boss accuses ex-FA chiefs of 'cheap shot'

Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has hit back at criticism from five former Football Association bosses saying their complaint about the league using its wealth to get its way is a "cheap shot".

The attack on the "financial might" of the Premier League came in an open letter from three ex-FA chairmen and two senior executives to the culture, media and sport select committee.

The letter asked MPs to consider legislation to force the governing body to make the much-discussed reforms to its governance structure so it can better represent the wider game against the Premier League's commercial interests.

But Scudamore, who was speaking to Press Association Sport at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of its successful youth outreach programme Kicks, completely rejected the premise of the letter.

"These are all people who used to work in football: we're still here doing what we do on a daily basis," said Scudamore.

"We're celebrating 10 years of the Kicks programme and this is going on up and down the country: 200,000 kids, 68 clubs, all doing this sort of stuff. So we'll just get on with the real job of organising football as best we can."

When asked if the implied criticism of the top flight's selfishness is fair, Scudamore said: "Of course it's not fair.

"First of all, the FA is the wealthiest football association in the world - they do with their money what they choose to do with their money.

"Second, we do more than any other league in world sport, or any other business, in terms of the amount of money we give away.

"It's all a cheap shot, it's all really unnecessary and I hope people see it for what it is."

The letter, which was signed by former chairmen David Bernstein, Greg Dyke and Lord Triesman and ex-directors David Davies and Alex Horne, said the FA was held by "elderly white men" on its 122-strong council, who resisted change and left an unrepresentative FA unable to counter the Premier League's power.

It pointed out that these failings have been debated many times in the past but the FA had proved completely incapable of reform and was now unsuited to cope with the demands of a "fast-changing world".

The five concluded by arguing that government-enforced reform might even "move us to redressing the woeful lack of English players or managers and the embarrassing failures of our national team for the past 50 years".

The select committee's chairman Damian Collins has already said he is preparing legislation that will effectively be a vote of no confidence in the FA and may result in the imposition of a football regulator.

But current FA chairman Greg Clarke, who has only been in the job since August, has already asked Collins and his correspondents to back off, saying the timing of these calls is "ill-judged".

In a letter of his own to the FA Council, which has been published on the governing body's website, he acknowledged that the quintet's letter "raises important questions about the governance of the FA" but said he believed it could be achieved "with collaboration across the game".

"I believe the proposals that are now in discussion will do a great deal to address some of the challenges around inclusion, transparency and accountability that we face," wrote Clarke.

And it would appear he has an ally in sports minister Tracey Crouch, who was also at the Kicks event in Tottenham, where Spurs' past and present stars Ledley King and Dele Alli were on hand to meet local youngsters at a coaching session.

Crouch said Kicks was exactly the kind of programme she had in mind when the Premier League promised her it would double its investment in grass-roots football to £100 million a year.

But on the issue of governance reform, the sports minister was adamant that legislation should only be a last resort and she was confident her new governance code for any governing body that receives public funding could be "the carrot" sport needs.

"Governance reform is something we've been looking at for a while, and not just for football," she told Press Association Sport.

"We've said very clearly that if the FA and others don't reform themselves they'll lose public funding. So we have to give them time to deliver."

That funding is for amateur sport and it comes via Sport England, with the next round of investment announced in April. In 2013, the FA was given £30 million over four years.

Crouch described the threat to that cash as the key to change - not a backbencher's "no confidence" motion.

"The FA knows it has to reform, I think they know they've been slow to do so," she said.

"But it's curious that five previous leaders have recognised that they have failed to do anything on this and yet they haven't given any time to the new chairman to do so.

"We have and I'm the first sports minister to have drawn up plans to withdraw public funding if there is no reform. I think that's the real incentive."

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