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Sports Matters Q&A: English FA’s Darren Bailey protects integrity


DARREN BAILEY, Director of Football Governance and Regulation for The Football Association, gives his views on the challenges for English and Asian football in the third of a series of interviews with speakers at the upcoming Sports Matters in Singapore.


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Interview SportAsia


What are you most looking forward to at Sports Matters?

Having worked in international sport for eight years as the Director of Legal at the International Rugby Board, I recognise how valuable international/cross border events such as Sports Matters are. They provide a fantastic forum for exchanging experiences and learning from experts in their respective fields.


I am particularly looking forward to hearing from a number of the clubs represented and the broadcasters to obtain their perception of how governance operations within sport are most effectively positioned.


Regards your upcoming talk at Sports Matters, what are the initiatives the FA is undertaking to preserve the integrity of English football and why are they relevant to global football?

We recognise that maintaining the integrity of English football is paramount and have been proactive in taking steps to ensure it is maintained. We have established clear rules on betting, inside information and reporting obligations.


A total ban on football betting by participants in the English game is now in place and there are prohibitions on the provision of inside information. We also have in place an obligation on participants to report suspicious activity.


A key part of our strategy is to be proactive in educating participants on the rules, including face-to-face education, posters and films. We actively promote a culture of collective responsibility on all participants to do the right thing.


As well as preserving the integrity of the game, what else are you focusing on?

As explained, maintaining game integrity is of fundamental importance. However, it is equally important to ensure that we attract participants from the widest possible talent pool by making our game open to all.


All sports face a challenge in promoting participation given the number of leisure and sports options available and it is essential that we use all available opportunities to attract future generations of players, match officials, coaches and volunteers. In this regard, engaging with young people and using new technology and social media is key.


Which domestic football leagues in Asia have the best structure and what can any of them learn from the Premier League and other top football leagues in Europe?

The J.League, K-League and A-League are all structured in a way that aims to promote a strong domestic club competition while at the same time promoting players who can perform on the international stage.


With sporting success will come commercial interest, creating a virtuous circle as seen in some of the bigger European leagues. These leagues are gaining increased exposure and the challenge will be to extend the appeal of these leagues overseas.


One of the attractions of the Premier League in particular is the fact that on any given match day, smaller or less wealthy teams can still beat the bigger and more financially powerful clubs.


This is a key selling point for the league since competitive balance and uncertainty of sporting outcome underpin the success of any sporting event and should be pursued as key objectives by all sports leagues and competitions.


In your view, what are Asian football’s main opportunities and challenges, both for its domestic leagues and for its national teams?

There is clearly a huge level of interest in football within Asia, although it is a highly competitive landscape given the presence and prominence of many other sports in various territories throughout the continent.


The domestic leagues have a difficult job in seeking to balance local player development, which benefits the national teams, while attracting star names from other territories.


There is a paradox whereby the best local talent may end up leaving the domestic leagues to play in more lucrative European football markets. While this may deprive the domestic league of its best local talent, it is arguably the case that the different challenges such a player will face may make them more effective on the international stage.


Reconciling these conflicting aspirations is a challenge all countries face to a greater or lesser extent, but it can be particularly difficult for less-established league competitions to find the appropriate equilibrium.

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