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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Morals should come before cash, says Chaplain for Sport

The Chaplain for Sport has insisted that the Football Association needs to change its priorities in order to place ethics above finance.

This comes as Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke insists his organisation remains committed to reform despite being hit with a vote of no confidence from Parliament.

The FA has faced repeated criticism that its board is failing to reflect and represent the diversity of the game and its governance was debated by MPs last week, culminating in the embarassing vote.

The motion is not binding but increases pressure on the governing body.
“Here, now at this ‘Fergie time’ there seem to be two questions: a what? and a why?” Mgr Vladimir Felzmann said.

“What needs to change at the FA is their priorities: female and disabled players need to be given enhanced facilities and support so that around the country there are those well versed level-playing fields for all.

“Why? Ethics are, or should be – for a Christian at least – more important than finance. Sport – at its best – is a great educator able to bring about social change.”

The FA received £30 million from Sport England between 2013-17 for grassroots football but has so far only given £5.6 million to support its disability and women’s programmes for four years.

Now the FA risks losing most of the grant if plans for reform, due to be submitted by the end of March, are not approved by sports minister Tracey Crouch.

Ms Crouch warned the FA against playing “Russian roulette” with public money while Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee chairman Damian Collins echoed Mgr Felzmann, noting that the organisation was now in ‘Fergie time’ in terms of needing to change. Mr Collins also said change could be forced on the FA if its proposals are not satisfactory.

Meanwhile, Mgr Felzmann, who is also the CEO for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, said if the FA did not want to use the funding from Sport England correctly, he had another option.

“If the FA does not want the £30 million from Sport England for grassroots football, I can think of a very good way of allocating the £24.4 million – channel it to the John Paul II Foundation for Sport so we can replicate Yasin’s story many times around the country.” Ex-Wessex FC player, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, 21, made his senior team debut for Newcastle United on 18th January in their 3-1 FA Cup win over Championship rivals Birmingham City.

“It was a great way to start what is undoubtedly going to be a fantastic career,” said Mgr Felzmann. “Yasin’s debut in the Championship is a long way from the days when he would climb over the fence of St Mary of the Angels Catholic Primary School to play on their astro turf pitch.

“It was from these humble beginnings that the John Paul II Foundation for Sport club Wessex FC was born – former rival gangs united in their passion for football and supported by the foundation.”

Mr Clarke said he had seen the debate and respected the opinions of the MPs.

“We remain committed to reforming governance at the FA to the agreed timescale of the minister,” he said.

The motion passed unopposed, though Ms Crouch acknowledged it was “six weeks premature” given the end of March deadline for submitting reform proposals. Fewer than 30 MPs attended the debate.

This weekend’s FA Cup fixtures:

Saturday 18th February

Burnley v Lincoln City – 12:30pm
Huddersfield Town v Manchester City – 3:00pm
Middlesbrough v Oxford United – 3:00pm
Millwall v Leicester City – 3:00pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea – 5:30pm

Sunday 19th February

Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur – 2:00pm
Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United – 4:15pm

Monday 20th February
Sutton United v Arsenal – 7:55pm

Picture: Newcastle United’s Yasin Ben El-Mhanni advances as Birmingham City’s Josh Dacres-Cogley challenges. (Richard Sellers/EMPICS Sport).