Football Shorts: Seventeen MPs Possibly Care

by | Feb 11, 2017

With setting up meetings to ensure that Rupert Murdoch’s representatives are in key positions, shouting “BREXIT MEANS BREXIT” through a loudspeaker, and arranging for the building of a five hundred foot high golden statue of Donald Trump to be installed on one of the plinths at Trafalgar Square, it has been somewhat surprising to see that the state of football in this country has been anywhere near the top of anybodys’s agenda over the last few weeks or months. Indeed, given the eerie silence that has emanated from the Football Association over the last few months, it has frequently felt as though there is actually nobody at all who cares very much about it at the moment.

In theory, a vote of no confidence being called against the Football Association by parliament should have been a big deal. The house has no legal power in terms of forcing the FA to reform itself, but this could have been an opportunity to send a clear message concerning the unwieldly power of the Premier League within the game, recent attempts at reform from the Football League that have seen that particular body become a focus of widespread ridicule, club owners that have been running long-established institutions into the ground, and the neglect of facilities at a grassroots level (amongst many, many other things).

This, however, turned out to be a wildly over-optimistic set of aspirations for the vote. As things turned out, the motion was passed, but with only seventeen MPs out of six hundred and fifty turning out for it, it’s somewhat doubtful that there will have been widespread angst within either the Football Association or the Premier League at the outcome of Thursday’s debate. Now, it might be argued that parliamentarians have somewhat more important matters to be involving themselves with at the moment – not that they’re making a particularly inspiring job of that at the moment either, but that’s a different matter altogether – but none of the other events in a rapdily combusting world mean that this sport’s place in our society should be completely ignored.

The feeble attendance for this debate, however, has given the FA and Premier League all the excuse they need to do nothing whatsoever now. The chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins, has long argued that the make-up of the FA Board, which is made up of four directors from professional clubs, four representing the amateur “national game”, and two independent directors plus the chairman, Greg Clarke, and chief executive, Martin Glenn, is the key to the FA being able to truly govern as an independent body. Similarly the FA Council – the organistation comprising of 122 representatives, mostly somewhat ossified, from county FAs and elsewhere within the amateur game – has also been open to criticism. Amongst the startling figures to jump out from its list of members is the fact that it currently contains more members over the age of eighty than it contains females.

When only seventeen people turn out to vote for such a motion, however, it is difficult to have any confidence that anybody will take it terribly seriously. But it may well be worth remembering come the next general election, that so many MPs decided that this wasn’t worth turning out for. And in the meantime, television viewing figures will continue to shrink, ticket prices will continue to rise, and the paint will continue to peel on the walls of dressing rooms that haven’t seen a painter and decorator in decades. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that neither the vast majority of MPs, the FA, the Premier League or anybody really cares very much about reforming the governance of football in this country. If anything, it’s somewhat surprising to believe that anybody could think that much good could have come from this “debate” in the first place.

Do you like podcasts? About football? Right, you’ll be wanting to click here for this week’s Twohundredpercent podcast, then. This week’s asks the question of whether Lincoln City can win this year’s FA Cup. 

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