Another accountant to run English football? No thanks

The FA may well to be hot on the heels of business recovery expert Trevor Birch to fill its chief executive spot – but finance directors do not think he is necessarily the association’s best choice.

Last week the FA refused to comment on speculation that it had asked Birch to apply for the post of chief executive, ignominiously vacated by accountant and former professional footballer Mark Palios.

The latest Accountancy Age/Reed Finance Big Question survey found that half (48%) of UK finance directors believe the FA does not need another accountant in the top job.

Just 37% believe that an accountant should be preferred over a more strategically minded candidate for the post.

‘Not another accountant,’ wailed one respondent. ‘We need strategic thinkers and leaders – someone with a vision and who communicates it.’

‘Accountants can be very, very good “number twos” – but they should always have somebody between them and the public,’ warned another anonymous respondent.

Graham Baskeyfield, finance director at Phoenix Datastorm, said that leadership skills were more important to the role, and accounting skills were ‘not necessarily a prerequisite’ for the FA’s most senior role.

An organisation with a CFO and a purely finance-based person as its chief executive would be too ‘top heavy’ in terms of an accounting bias, according to John Buckley, Sauter Automation FD.

‘Accountants can make very good CEOs – but conversely not all accountants make good CEOs,’ pointed out another respondent.

But Tim Carr, FD of Charcol Holden Meehan, could think of ‘no better’ qualification than accountancy in giving the grounding to ‘run any modern organisation, including the FA’.

‘As a CIMA-qualified accountant, I am confident that any strategic decision is best made with a full and detailed knowledge of the numbers driving the business,’ he said.

‘Someone who is not distracted by the female staff might be helpful,’ said one respondent. ‘Why not a lady accountant for the top spot to get a bit of discipline into the organisation?’


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