Ageing Council coming under pressure

icon power12 October ~ Founded in 1876 the Football Association of Wales (FAW) is the third oldest football association in the world. It would clearly be an exaggeration to say that some of its 35 council members have been there since the very start but it feels like it. Some can claim to have been born only just after the end of the First World War and other members permanently reside in nursing homes. One, who passed away earlier this week, was 84 years old and could claim 38 years' continuous service on the council.

That the current governance of the FAW is not fit for purpose was amply demonstrated in the summer by the Council's decision to not allow the newly re-formed Barry and Llanelli teams to enter the Welsh League. This went against the recommendations of its own committee and  eventually saw the FAW lose in court, picking up an estimated £50,000 legal bill. While this brought the problems into sharp focus everyone connected with Welsh football knows there are serious problems and a governance review was commissioned over a year ago.

Published at the beginning of October, the Welsh Football Governance Review is 111 pages long and has 88 recommendations. Some of the findings are pretty damning – as are some of the quotations from FAW councillors themselves. These include "There are people on the Board who know nothing about running a multi-million pound business" and "There needs to be an age limit – two people were nodding off in the meeting today and that's just not right".
The review, driven by a very capable but increasingly frustrated chief executive, Jonathan Ford, covers a broad range of issues. However the key element involves limiting the role of the council and introducing an executive committee, with powers similar to a board of directors. There are also specific recommendations to tackle the positions of "life members" and bringing in an age limit for those wishing to apply for election in the future.

Ford's review is well written and very thorough and it would seem difficult to argue with the logic of most of the recommendations. But, as proved by the Barry debacle, the FAW Council (which includes a number of unaccountable life members in their 80s and 90s) have a track record of ignoring logic and these recommendations will potentially erode their power forever.

The council is due to "consider" the report later this month but will not yet vote on it. Will they put self interest aside and support the recommendations or will this, like previous FAW reviews, be voted down and the status quo preserved? Only 25 of the current 35 councillors completed a questionnaire given to them as part of the review, which suggests that ten of them either refused to take part or were incapable of completing it. Either way it doesn't bode well. Paul Ashley-Jones

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