The “old men” accused of blocking change at the Football Association are “stupid enough” to fight reforms, says former FA chairman Greg Dyke.
MPs will debate the FA’s failure to reform in Parliament on Thursday.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has warned the FA could lose £30m-£40m of funding if it does not modernise.
“You shouldn’t underestimate the old men of English football. They’ve seen off all sorts of people over the years,” Dyke told BBC Radio 5 live.
“Government are now saying if you don’t do these things you’ll lose money and we won’t support you in the future. Who knows, they are stupid enough to say ‘we’re going to fight it anyway’,” he added.
The FA is effectively run by its own parliament, the FA Council, which has 122 members – just eight are women and only four from ethnic minorities. More than 90 of the 122 members are aged over 60.
The government has repeatedly called for the FA to be more representative of modern society, and those who play the game. It also wants the organisation to change the way it makes decisions.
Last year, five former FA executives – including Dyke – called on the government to pass legislation to force through FA reform, saying they had been blocked in their attempts to do so.
“There needs to be radical change,” Dyke continued. “You’ve got to have younger people there, more women, supporters, ethnic minorities – it’s got to change.
“The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has produced two papers over the years that have both pressed for change and both been completely ignored by this bunch of old guys.”
He singled out 25 life-presidents on the FA Council he said were “not representing anyone”, adding: “It’s an ongoing oligarchy that looks after itself.
“My understanding is that the professional game has also had enough of these old guys.”
Current chairman Greg Clarke has said he will quit if his latest plans for reform are not accepted when he presents them to the government in the spring.
And Dyke said: “I think Greg Clarke is a good guy who is trying to make a change, as I did.
“I suspect what Greg is doing is saying to the FA, more than government, that if you can’t give me a deal that meets what government is after then I’m not staying around. In which case they’ll have lost another chairman. I’m not sure that will worry them – they’ve lost so many chairmen over the years it doesn’t really matter.”
Greg Dyke’s latest comments will no doubt anger many FA councillors.
While few deny the governing body’s “parliament” lacks diversity and needs to be more representative of the modern game, many reject the narrative that they are always to blame for a lack of progress.
One of the reasons Dyke’s attempts at reform failed when he was chairman was because the council feared it would hand even more power and influence to the professional clubs, and especially to the Premier League.
They insist they were right to stand up to Dyke at a time of mounting concern over inequality in the sport.
Some critics also point out it is the FA’s board – not its council – where real power lies, and that until more independent directors are added to it, the power of the game’s vested interests will continue to prevent decision-making for the whole sport.”