"[Football's] governance has failed to keep up with the modern game. If football proves unable to sort this out itself then the government may have to legislate. I'm not keen on that idea because I've always believed very strongly that sport, not government, should run sport in this country. It is an absolute deadline for them to bring forward proposals to say how they're going to implement this report."
These were the words earlier in the week spoken from the mouth of UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and they certainly were tough ones. The government has grown increasingly worried about the way football is being run by the Football Association and the ‘change or be changed’ mentality is quickly growing momentum as the narrative from this current government.
While legislation could possibly help eradicate the amount of debt and operating losses currently plaguing the English game is there not one very, very big and belligerent foe in any government intervention; and I am not referring to the Premier League and their established members. Rather I am referring to the most cantankerous of all the sporting bodies; FIFA.
Sepp Blatter and co take a very dim view toward government meddling in their affiliated sporting bodies just ask the likes of Iraq, Guinea, Greece, Peru, Ethiopia, Yemen and many others who have all been handed suspensions in the past after their government became involved in various differing matters of the game.
In 2010 France very nearly felt the full force of FIFA’s pugnacity. After the teams poor showing at the World Cup in South Africa the French Health Minister (which also covers sport in their remit) Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin and then President Nicolas Sarkozy both made their intention to review how the French Football Federation was run very clear. Even clearer was FIFA’s view on potential Gallic meddling in affairs:
''We will help the national association and if it cannot be solved by consultation, then the only thing we have is to suspend the federation. Definitely, I can tell you that political interference will be dealt with by Fifa notwithstanding what kind of interference and what is the size of the country."
"Any time there is (political) interference, FIFA will react as with any country in the world.’’
We also know that FIFA have perhaps not been the greatest friend of the Premier League or the FA in recent years so giving them the opportunity to send us hurtling into footballing exile may not be the wisest of moves. The expression ‘don’t poke the bear’ springs to mind.
So while the actions of the government may be in the best interests of the game it may be in everyone’s best interests if they just leave the governance of football to the FA; even if they are not doing a great job as poking the FIFA bear could end up with much graver consequences for the sport.
Do you think FIFA could intervene in any government meddling in football governance?
image: © World Economic Forum