A motion of “no confidence” in the Football Association has been passed by MPs debating the organisation’s ability to reform itself.
While the motion is largely symbolic, MPs have warned legislation will be brought in if changes are not made.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has said the FA could lose £30m-£40m of public funding if it does not modernise.
Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Select Committee chairman Damian Collins said: “No change is no option.”
He added: “The FA, to use a football analogy, are not only in extra time, they are at the end of extra time, in ‘Fergie time’. They are 1-0 down and if they don’t pick up fairly quickly, reform will be delivered to them.”
FA chairman Greg Clarke has said he will quit if the organisation cannot win government support for its reform plans.
“I watched the debate and respect the opinions of the MPs,” he said.
“As previously stated, we remain committed to reforming governance at the FA to the agreed timescale of the minister.”
Collins suggested ministers should intervene to overhaul English football’s governing body because “turkeys won’t vote for Christmas” and it will not reform itself.
Crouch warned the FA that if it played “Russian roulette” with public money it will lose.
The minister also said the government would be prepared to consider legislation if the FA fails to present plans for required reforms before April. However she felt the debate – which was sparsely attended by MPs – was premature given her desire to see the FA’s proposals.
How have we got here?
The committee has published two reports since 2010 recommending greater representation at the FA for fans and the grassroots game, as well as more diversity in positions of authority. It also wants to dilute the perceived dominance of the Premier League.
Collins has said the FA was given six months to meet the government guidance on best practice for sports governance but had failed to do so. That guidance called for things such as a move towards gender equality on boards, more independent oversight, more accountability and term limits for office bearers.
He was joined by fellow Tories and Labour MPs – keen to ensure the “national game” is run correctly – in bemoaning the current state of the FA.
The cross-party motion stated that MPs have no confidence in the FA’s ability to comply fully with its duties as its existing governance structures make it “impossible for the organisation to reform itself”.
It was approved unopposed at the end of a backbench business debate, which was attended by fewer than 30 MPs.
FA vice-president defends lack of diversity
The FA is effectively run by its own parliament, the FA Council, which has 122 members – just eight are women and only four from ethnic minorities. More than 90 of the 122 members are aged over 60.
Shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan said: “Not only is diversity not in the heart of the FA ,it isn’t in its body, or even its soul.”
Labour MP Keith Vaz, whose constituency of Leicester East is home to the Premier League champions Leicester City, added: “A quarter of all professional footballers are black, however only 17 of the 92 top clubs have an ethnic minority person in a senior coaching role.”
However, Keith Compton – one of 25 FA life vice-presidents and a director of Derbyshire FA – questioned why the FA was being discussed in Parliament.
“It is pity that the MPs have got nothing better to do,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.
“I would have thought with the state of the NHS, the lack of building, too many people living in boxes, not enough cash for defence, that some people would put energy into that not the organisation of football.
“Football is reforming all of the time.”
Asked whether there should be more female and ethnic minority involvement in FA decisions, he said: “That’s not really the responsibility of the council. If those people were interested enough, and we had enough people, we would have enough women and other people on the FA.
“I have heard people say supporters aren’t represented but that is not true. They have one representative. People want the council to be reduced and now I am hearing it should be increased.”
Responding to the interview, former FA chairman David Bernstein said: “I think if you want an argument for change, you’ve just heard it.”
And Yunus Lunat, the first Muslim to get a seat on the FA Council before leaving three years ago, said new recruits were needed.
“No-one is disputing the contribution the previous generation has made but there comes a time when you have got to recognise that you are not the most suitable people for the role,” he said.
BBC sports editor Dan Roan
The debate may have been attended by fewer MPs than is needed for a full football match, but the fact a motion of no confidence in the FA was passed still gives it an embarrassing bloody nose, ramping up the pressure on the governing body.
The few MPs who spoke seemed to mostly agree with each other, demanding greater diversity on the council, independent directors and fan representation on the board, and raising concerns over the clout and money of the professional clubs, especially the Premier League.
But the people who really matter here are the government.
The sports minister said the debate was “premature” and reiterated that she may consider the nuclear option of legislation to force through reforms – but only if a threat to cut funding does not work. That however, remains some way off and the FA is confident it can comply with a new code of governance. If it fails, chairman Greg Clarke has vowed to step down and then it really will be in the last-chance saloon.
What do fans think?
Football Supporters’ Federation chairman Malcolm Clarke: “We’re very pleased to see so many MPs back our proposals for a minimum of five fan representatives on the FA Council, representation on the FA board, and increased diversity.
“Supporters are integral to the health of our national sport yet are still shockingly under-represented in the FA hierarchy – the FA Council has only one supporter representative, yet the Armed Forces and Oxbridge have five.
“It is also important to acknowledge that the FA Council has stood up to rampant commercialism within the game and protected fans’ interests – such as when the FA Council stopped the ‘Hull Tigers’ name change.”
What the MPs said – key quotes
Sports minister Tracey Crouch: “The FA’s current model does not, in my opinion, and clearly that of other colleagues, stand up to scrutiny. Reform is therefore required.”
Judith Cummins (Labour, Bradford South): “At best they’re dragging their feet, at worst they’re wilfully failing to act.”
Andrew Bingham, CMS Select Committee member: “The issues of Sam Allardyce, who manages the (England) team for 67 days, one game, walks away with allegedly around £1m, it is destroying people’s faith in football.”
Nigel Huddleston (Conservative, Mid Worcestershire): “I have a great deal of respect for Greg Clarke but I sense his hands are tied and a sense of institutional inertia pervades the governance of football in this country.”