Finding an ex-player qualified to be new FA chair ‘tough ask’ – Mark Bullingham

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
·4-min read

It will be a “tough ask” to find someone from a playing background with the necessary corporate credentials to be the new Football Association chair, its chief executive Mark Bullingham has admitted.

The national governing body has set out the recruitment process to find Greg Clarke’s successor, with a six-person panel charged with overseeing the appointment, including Derby first-team coach Liam Rosenior.

FA chief Bullingham said he was excited at the level of candidate the FA would be able to attract for the position.

But asked if there was anyone out there who possessed both a playing pedigree and the corporate experience, he said: “I think possibly it’s a tough ask. I’m not saying no, but I do think it’s difficult.

“There are two main areas of the role. There’s one to be an absolutely brilliant ambassador and represent us on both the international and domestic stage. I think players can absolutely do that.

“I think there’s a second requirement to run the board. To be clear this is a non-executive role, it was a non-executive role with Greg. The role is not to run the FA, it’s to run the board.

“But we do have a complex stakeholder board and I think its hard to see that someone who has never run a board would be able to step in and run a complex stakeholder board of a £450million organisation.

“That’s not to rule anyone out, that’s just to tell you my views on the different skill sets required.

Paul Elliott has been reported as a contender to be the new FA chair
Paul Elliott has been reported as a contender to be the new FA chair (John Stillwell/PA)

“You know my views, we are doing a board review and I would love to have player representation on the board.

“But if you are asking me does that have to be the chair role, my personal answer would be no. But I’m clearly not the only person who has influence over that decision.”

Paul Elliott, who is the chair of the FA’s inclusion advisory board, and Bobby Barnes, the deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, have been suggested as contenders for the role and do appear to have the necessary mix of skills as well as a background in professional football.

Bullingham was asked whether age would be a criteria.

“I think technically there is an age limit in FA Council of 65 and this appointment does have to be the leader of Council, but we’re not looking to rule anyone out at this stage so we would look at everything,” he said.

Stacey Cartwright, an independent non-executive director of the FA, will lead the selection panel. Along with Rosenior, the other panellists are FA board members Peter McCormick, Rupinder Bains, Jack Pearce and Kate Tinsley.

Liam Rosenior is on the panel which will choose Greg Clarke's successor
Liam Rosenior is on the panel which will choose Greg Clarke’s successor (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bullingham said the recruitment process would be “very different to the last one” and in a break from tradition, he confirmed the role would not be advertised in the Sunday Times.

“We had over 20 agencies come forward and we’ve already started on a shortlist. In that shortlisting we want an agency or possibly multiple agencies that will help us find the most diverse candidate. So, I think you’ll see we’re looking well beyond the usual suspects.

Asked whether that would mean no advert in the Sunday Times, he added: “We’re not following the traditional process in that way, no.”

Bullingham revealed Clarke had sent an apology to FA staff after his appearance at the DCMS committee.

He used the word “coloured”, suggested being gay was a “life choice”, said ethnic groups had “different career interests” and recounted a story about how there were fewer female goalkeepers because young girls did not like having a ball kicked at them.

“I think it’s fair to say we did have some very upset people, upset at the way the FA was being portrayed because we don’t believe it was a true reflection of our organisation. There were a lot of people who were very upset and we have been coping with that this week and answering questions internally.”