Independent Review into the PFA
Recommendation - Restructure of the PFA’s governing bodies
One of the most significant recommendations made by the Independent Review Panel is that the PFA should introduce a new governance structure.
As part of that process, the Panel recommended that the Management Committee should be disbanded, with a new Committee/Board structure introduced.
The revised, recommended structure is designed to recognise how important it is that members are engaged with – and able to influence – the strategy and day-to-day work of the PFA. It is also intended to ensure greater scrutiny and accountability of those on governance roles.
The Independent Review Panel felt that the current governance structure did not maximise opportunities for member engagement and that a new structure would help ensure an improved flow of information to members and allow for members to have a greater say in the work of their union.
The Panel recommended that a new Operational Board should be introduced to oversee the day-to-day running of the Union.
The Panel recommended that the new Operational Board should comprise:
- four non-executive members;
- the CEO of the Union;
- the Director of Finance of the Union; and,
- the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Players’ Board.
The Operational Board would be chaired by one of the non-executive members, who would be elected by the Operational Board as a whole.
The Players’ Board
This Operational Board would sit below a newly created Players’ Board.
The Players’ Board would delegate the day-to-day running of the Union to the Operational Board. However, the Players’ Board would be the supreme governing body of the PFA and the ultimate decision-making authority within the Union.
The Independent Review Panel recommended that the Players’ Board should be directly representative of the Union’s membership and should comprise two members drawn from each of:
- the WSL
- the Premier League;
- the EFL Championship;
- League 1; and
- League 2
The Players’ Board should also include three former players, at least two of whom must have been professional players within the previous 5 years. This would create a total board membership of 13.
The Independent Review Panel recommended that the existing requirement that any candidate for a committee role should be nominated by two club delegates is amended.
Going forward, the Panel has recommended that each candidate must be nominated by three Full Members of the Union. Nominations would be sent to the Chair of the Operational Board or, at the discretion of the Operational Board, to a nominations sub-committee, chaired by an appropriate non-executive member of that board.
The Independent Review Panel noted that, to comply with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, rules will need to be introduced regarding members’ eligibility to stand for various governance positions.
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that a member should be eligible to stand if he or she is (both at the date of nomination and election) a current professional player, who is a Full Member and whose contract will be with a club within the relevant league at the start of the season.
For the three ‘former member’ positions on the Players’ Board, any former member should be eligible to stand for one open place. For the remaining two places, a former member should be eligible to stand if he or she has been a professional player within the five-year period ending on the date of the election.
Membership terms and election process
Nominations should normally take place within one month prior to the close of the Summer transfer window, with the intent that the contractual position/eligibility of the player would then be clear. Once nominations have been received, a vote by the members of the Union should be conducted to elect individuals for the positions outlined within the new structure. The vote should take place as soon as practicable after the close of nominations and in any event should take place within one month following the end of the relevant Summer transfer window.
All Full Members should be eligible to vote for all candidates. In each league, and amongst the candidates for the former member positions, the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes should be the designated alternate, who will step in in the event that one of the elected representatives is unable to attend a meeting.
If, between routine elections, a member of the Players’ Board either ceases to be a professional footballer or acquires a ‘managerial or executive position’, a ‘caretaker position’ or a ‘coaching position’ (as defined by the new PFA Rules), he or she must resign immediately, unless this is a caretaker or a coaching position and the Players’ Board approves that he or she can continue to serve.
Diversity and participation
The Panel recommended that work is carried out to encourage BAME members to stand for election to the Players’ Board as part of a wider effort to tackle the under representation of BAME candidates in leadership positions at all levels in the game. The panel also set out its hope that, by introducing an open and transparent election process, some of the risks of ‘group-think’ nomination would be removed.
Recommendation - The process for recruiting a new Chief Executive
The Independent Review Panel set out a recommended process regarding the recruitment and appointment of a new Chief Executive for the PFA.
The panel noted that this recommended process took into consideration a range of important statutory and legal requirements, such as those set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act and within the PFA’s own rules.
Selection of non-executives
The recommended process put forward by the Panel reflects the importance it has placed upon the recruitment of experienced non-executives to advise the PFA.
As a primary step, the Independent Review Panel recommended that a three-person selection panel, chaired by an independent person and supported by a specialist recruitment agency, should be appointed to find four non-executives for consideration by the Management Committee to be put forward for election by the members.
The Independent Review Panel recommended that the three-person selection panel should comprise:
- Gary Neville (as the independent Chair)
- John Mousinho
- Edward Canty
This recommendation was made upon the basis of the Panel’s independent assessment of the need for such a panel and the membership which would best serve the interests of the Union and its members. The Independent Review Panel made clear that sole function of this three-person selection panel would be to select the non-executive team and that the three-person panel would be disbanded once that process had come to an end.
Search for potential Chief Executive
Following their selection, the Independent Review Panel recommended that the newly appointed non-executives, supported by a suitable specialist recruitment agency should conduct an open recruitment exercise for the new Chief Executive to be considered for election by the Members.
Election of the Chief Executive
The Independent Review Panel noted that the existing responsibilities of the Chief Executive combine the roles of Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Union. As a matter of law (under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act) the proposed new Chief Executive will need to be elected and be re-elected (should that be the wish of the membership) no later than five years thereafter.
The Panel has recommended that the nominated non-executives - with due consideration of relevant benchmarking - should recommend the starting salary (and any bonus) payable to the new Chief Executive, subject to Players’ Board approval.
Recommendation - Engage non-executive expertise across the organisation
As set out in the proposed organisation restructure, the Independent Review Panel felt that there was a need for independent, senior non-executive input in - and scrutiny of – the governance of the PFA.
The Panel felt that this would help to ensure effective accountability of the senior executive team, and to provide the organisation with knowledgeable advisors.
The Panel has recommended the appointment (and election) of non-executives to serve a fixed four-year term, limited to one ‘renewal’. They identified accounting/audit, corporate and, potentially, legal, as specific areas where the PFA would benefit from experienced non-executive advisors with specialist skills.
As part of the proposed organisational restructure, newly appointed non-executive members would become part of the new Operational Board.
Recommendation - Set a medium and long-term strategy
The Review Panel felt that it was important to ensure that the PFA set out a clear overall strategy to guide the organisation, with each department working towards delivery of this.
In order to ensure each department tailored its work, actions and objectives towards delivery of the overall strategy, the Panel suggested that there should be clear performance measures set in line with the overall strategy.
Progress against these performance measures will be monitored directly by:
- for the Union, the Operational Board, reporting to and informed by the Players’ Board;
- for Enterprises, the board of that company, reporting to and informed by the Players’ Board;
- for the PFA Charity, the board of trustees, reporting to the Union through its annual report.
The Independent Review Panel has made clear their belief that establishing a clear strategic direction for the union should involve meaningful consultation with staff members, at all levels, and that this should be a collaborative exercise.
The Panel has suggested that the setting of a clear strategic direction for the PFA should be completed within 12 months of the appointment of the new CEO.
Recommendation - Introduce regular effectiveness reviews
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that internal board effectiveness reviews should be conducted every three years, with an external independent effectiveness review to be conducted every five years.
These reviews would apply to each board under the new PFA governance structure (Enterprises; the Operational Board; the Players’ Board; and the board of trustees of the PFA Charity.
Recommendation - Increase transparency and safeguard against conflicts of interest
The Independent Review Panel made clear their belief that the PFA needed to introduce new measures to ensure transparency around decision making processes and communication with members.
The Panel has recommended a range of measures designed to help ensure prompt communication and clarity around decision making procedures:
The minutes or summary reports, of all board meetings within each entity in the PFA, should be prepared and circulated to all members of the board in question, no later than 14 days after the meeting to which they relate. Once approved, those minutes/reports should be made available in the members’ section of the website, with prominent links to the relevant documentation.
- Whether by publication of minutes or otherwise, the names of all those attending and giving apologies for all board meetings in each PFA entity should be readily apparent from the website, within 21 days of the meeting in question, so that each board member’s rate of attendance will be readily apparent to members and former members.
- Conflicts of interest policies for all committees and boards should be subject to regular review and updating, both as a standing agenda item and ad hoc.
- An open and transparent tendering process should be adopted for the allocation and renewal of key contracts with third parties, with a built-in review period, as appropriate and no less frequently than every five years.
Recommendation - Introduce an effective organisation-wide budgeting process
The Independent Review Panel has suggested that all new budgets should be proposed and approved by the relevant board, suitably in advance of the start of the financial year to which they relate and before expenditure in line with the proposed budget commences.
The Panel has also recommended that, within the Union in particular, each head of department should have responsibility for managing and delivering the approved budget applicable to that department and his or her appraisal should include consideration of performance against those requirements.
The effective organisation-wide budgeting process will be implemented in line with the agreed medium-long term strategy set out above.
Recommendation - Digitise all records and conduct an IT audit
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that all PFA records should be digitised and indexed so as to be readily accessible by staff.
The Panel has also recommended that a full IT audit should be conducted. This should include the identification of skills gaps amongst staff with action taken to provide training.
Recommendation - Conduct an annual staff survey
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that an annual staff survey should be conducted. There should be clear communication to all employees of the results of the survey, the actions to be taken and the timescale within which those actions will be completed.
The Panel has made clear that this recommendation is designed to ensure that all employees have a voice and a means of raising concerns, assessing the PFA’s reaction to those concerns, and providing a mechanism through which staff can indicate the positive aspects of the organisation and a benchmark from year to year.
Recommendation - Clearly define ‘Professional Footballer’ within the PFA Rules
The Independent Review Panel has acknowledged that, in order to bring in the recommended new organisational structure, there will need to be significant revisions to the PFA rules.
As part of that process, the Panel believe there is a need to ensure there is a clear definition within the rules of what is a ‘professional footballer’.
The Panel has recommended that the rules regarding eligibility for membership of (1) the Union and (2) its governing board(s) should be made clearer.
With regards to eligibility for membership of the Union, the Independent Review Panel has recommended defining ‘professional footballer/player’ to mean “a player who plays under a written contract, in any of the professional leagues, for reward (over and above expenses)”.
Recommendation - Establish appropriate sub-committees
The Panel recommended that appropriate sub-committees should be formed from the Operational Board, including a remuneration committee and a governance, risk and audit committee.
The Panel noted that other committees, such as a recruitment committee and/or nominations committee, might be established, and that each such sub-committee should include at least one non-executive member.
Recommendation – Disband the Business Advisory Committee (BAC)
The Panel has recommended that, with effect from the date on which the remuneration committee is established, BAC should be disbanded.
Recommendation - New CEO to review the staffing structure and implement all necessary changes
The Panel recommended that one of the key requirements for a new PFA CEO should be to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing staffing structure, recommending to the Operational Board all such changes as appear necessary and appropriate in order best to achieve the objects of the PFA, in the best interests of the membership and in line with the agreed strategy. The Operational Board would be responsible for approving and actioning any recommended changes to staffing structure.
Recommendation - Improve communication
The Panel felt that there was a need for more effective methods of communication with the membership, by a greater number of PFA staff, together with increased ‘face-time’ in all clubs.
The Panel noted that this could include routine proactive contact with all players who lose their contracts or are nearing a likely ‘retirement age’.
The Panel also felt that more effective communication with former members and all stakeholder organisations and communities is also needed.
Recommendation - Increase HR capacity and capability
The Independent Review Panel felt that the existing HR model was not appropriate and has recommended the creation of an internal HR department. Alternatively, the Panel suggested the outsourcing of the HR function to a suitable third-party provider.
As part of a revised HR function, the Panel recommended that systems should be introduced to ensure and monitor the issue, and regular and comprehensive review of: the PFA’s various contracts of employment; statements of employment particulars; HR policies and processes.
The Panel also recommended that a pay review exercise should be undertaken across the organisation, with appropriate benchmarking of roles, banding and pay scales.
Recommendation - Increase bespoke, relevant training
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that compulsory training should be provided to all new incumbents occupying any governance role. This should include the provision of a bespoke induction course, at the outset of a new member’s committee term, and appropriate refresher courses for those whose membership is renewed.
As part of this process, a staff audit should be conducted to identify skills gaps and any training needs, across the organisation, with plans put in place to ensure that staff are appropriately skilled for their roles. All training should be documented and monitored.
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that a specialist HR practitioner should lead this audit.
Recommendations relating specifically to the PFA Charity
Recommendation - Review the nominated trustees of the PFA Charity
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that, going forward, two nominated trustees should be nominated by the newly created Players’ Board. Their terms should run so that there will be a nomination, or re-nomination, every two years, of one of the trustees, with each trustee’s term lasting for four years, renewable.
The Panel recommended that the Management Committee should proceed with the selection of two nominated trustees and inform the trustees of the PFA Charity of the new nominees as soon as practicable, following an open and transparent recruitment process.
Recommendation - Review the co-opted trustees of the PFA Charity
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that co-opted trustees ought to be co-opted only after the application of a ‘skills matrix’, which will serve to identify knowledge and skills gaps on the existing board.
The Panel noted that, according to PFA Rules, the terms of the currently co-opted trustees have come to an end and, therefore, all positions should be considered up for renewal. It is recommended that the existing co-opted trustees should, if willing and able, remain in place until the election of the new CEO has been completed. The Panel has recommended that recruitment for the co-opted positions should be via an open recruitment process, with appropriate assistance from a suitable external agency.
The Panel has also recommended that the board of trustees of the PFA Charity should be chaired by one of the new co-opted trustees, elected by the board.
Recommendation - Annual review of the PFA Charity’s impact
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that, every 12 months, there should be transparent and systematic formal evaluation of the PFA Charity’s impact, including the measurement and assessment of results, outputs and outcomes, resulting in a report, to be shared with the Union and the membership as a whole
Recommendation - Significantly improve communication
The Independent Review Panel noted its belief that there was a need for the PFA Charity to establish better protocols for communication with the Union, beneficiaries, stakeholders and the Press.
The Panel has recommended that the PFA Charity should seek to improve its communications relating to what the Panel called “the excellent work undertaken and assistance provided to beneficiaries”.
Recommendation - Governance training
The Panel has recommended that compulsory governance training should be provided to all new incumbents occupying any trustee role. That should include the provision of an induction course, at the outset of a new trustee’s term, and appropriate refresher courses.
Recommendations relating specifically to Enterprises
Recommendation - Review the board of Enterprises
The Independent Review Panel has recommended that the board of Enterprises ought to comprise the same members as the Operational Board of the Union (as set out in the recommended governance restructuring).
Once elected, the panel recommended that non-executives should replace the existing independent director. The new CEO should replace the outgoing CEO; the Director of Finance, subject to their election to the Operational Board, would remain in place and, once the Chair and Vice- Chair of the Players’ Board have been elected, the remaining directors should step down.