Football

FA funding buys right to interfere - Sutcliffe

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Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has defended the Government's demand for reform of the Football Association.

Sutcliffe wants the FA to introduce two independent, non-executive directors to its board and improve the development of the game for women and ethnic minorities. He told the Guardian that using the "lever" of removing £25million in funding from Sport England would be a "last resort".

But he added on BBC Radio Five Live: "We see ourselves as critical friends. We have a £25million investment through Sport England, we contribute £15million to the Football Foundation, football comes to the Government to ask us to help on European issues around TV rights, around a whole range of issues."

He added: "I think it's a fair balance we strike. At the end of the day it's football and football should be running the game but as a government with that investment I think it's right we say what we think."

Asked if the FA were holding back development of the game, Sutcliffe added: "I think they are in the sense of they could do better. English football is a success but you want to maintain that success.

"Football is a success, nobody is saying it's dying on its feet. But what we have to do is maintain the progress and make sure and the Football Association is the body that can make sure that it's representative and can lead the way.

"I think it is competent but as recognised in Burns (the Lord Burns structural review in 2005), there's a long way to go.

"To change from the old style structure to the new structure we need to have non-executive directors on the board, there needs to be progress in the women's game."

Asked what was wrong with the women's game, Sutcliffe added: "The fact that we haven't got an elite league, it's been delayed until 2011, and this on the back of women's football being the fastest growing game in the country.

"We saw the success of the England women's team (reaching the European Championship final) and we want that momentum to be maintained. Four of our best players have to play in America and that's not a good example."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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