Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spineless FA Needs Reform

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spineless FA Needs Reform

Article excerpt

ONE GREAT London club, West Ham, is facing takeover. There are wild rumours that Arsenal, too, is being considered for purchase by a consortium of Russians. What has the FA to say about the principles that govern takeovers? The question answers itself - the Football Association, the body that governs English football, does not really deal in principles.

Today, our City Editor, Chris Blackhurst, examines what he describes as the "closed, bent, doubledealing, greedy, venal world that is English football" and he blames the FA for the sport's moral malaise.

Football is not just a sport, but a huge international business, yet its owners, managers and players operate according to standards that would never be tolerated elsewhere in business. On the question of the multimillion pound takeovers of London clubs, for instance, any would-be owner should have to prove that he is a fit and proper person to run a company and that his wealth is derived from reputable sources.

Yet in the world of football, questions are never asked about the source of a club owner's wealth. But questions are especially valid where the would-be buyer is foreign - for instance, the continuing problems of dealing with money laundering in Russia was vividly illustrated yesterday with the murder of Andrei Kozlov, the senior banker who conducted a long-running campaign against banking crime.

The Football Association should ask these questions, but it lacks the moral fibre to do so. The body has already been scrutinised in the Burns report, but the FA, under its chief executive, Brian Barwick, has simply ignored any suggestions for thoroughgoing reform. So it falls to the Government to impose rules on the FA to enforce accountability.

The ultimate sanction is legislation and this is something the Government should now consider.

Self-government in football has resulted in a closed, incestuous, self-serving world tainted by corruption. The very future of the game is in question: resistance can no longer be tolerated.

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