A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the FA President's Lunch
Published 06 April 2016
We owe it to the history of the game to maintain the FA's global standing. To do so, we must seek to set a world standard in the way we conduct our business
Thank you Greg for those kind and generous words.
It has been a great pleasure to work alongside you over the years and witness the transformative impact you have had on the organisation. I know you will not be resting on your laurels in the remaining months till July, but let me take this opportunity to thank you for your service to the FA and wish you the best of luck for the future.
I feel hugely privileged to have been President of the Football Association for the last 10 years. Looking back, being given the opportunity to be the President of such an historic and world-renowned institution from a relatively young age could have appeared quite daunting. But I have relished every moment - as a football fan, even a Villa fan, who wouldn't?
Football is England's national game...it is part of the fabric of this nation, and to a large degree, helps form England's national identity. It is an incredibly powerful force for bringing people together, uniting people of all ages, all backgrounds and all walks of life. Quite simply, it is everything from a passion and a hobby to an obsession and a profession. We all love it, and that is why I find it such an honour to be President of the game's national governing body.
I have also been given a huge amount of support over the last decade from so many devoted people, which has made my role all the more enjoyable. Football, at all levels, relies on enthusiastic and committed people, who invest large amounts of time and energy ensuring that everyone involved in the beautiful game can enjoy it to the maximum benefit. You are these people and this lunch is as much about recognising your commitment as it is my time as President.
Unfortunately, my ten years as President have not been overly blessed by international tournament success. But I am proud to say that The FA has chalked up some very significant achievements in other fields.
We have completed the most iconic stadium in the world. Wembley is a venue with such tradition and emotion that guarantees to send tingles down the spine of any fan that comes here to support their team – as I well know.
As Greg mentioned, I will never forget that very special Wembley moment of celebrating with Villa supporters as we won the Cup Semi-final last year. Sadly, I didn't have quite the same feeling handing over the trophy to Arsenal a few weeks
We now have the National Football Centre at St. George’s Park, a world leading performance facility at the heart of the FA's work. When you sit in the coaching room with Dan Ashworth and his team, and see the countdown clock on the wall, you can't help but be motivated and inspired. It really is an incredible facility....
No pressure Dan!
We have also seen women’s football finally become much more prominent, as it truly deserves to be. The establishment of a vibrant semi-professional League structure; the inspiring performances of the Lionesses; and a grassroots game that has seen a 30 per cent growth in women’s and girls’ teams are all great steps for the future of the game.
And finally, we have seen a real revolution in youth football. The changes to the formats of the game for mini-soccer and youth football, along with the outstanding success of the Skills Programme, have raised the standards and experience for young boys and girls as they start out in football.
These are all significant achievements for the future of our national game. But we must not take any of it for granted, or stand still for a moment.
Over these 10 years I have seen the board and council strive to best serve the changing needs of the game and its participants. We owe it to the history of the game to maintain the FA's global standing. To do so, we must seek to set a world standard in the way we conduct our business.
There is one area in which I feel we do still need to improve and to do so with some urgency.
Our governance structure is in danger of falling short of modern standards of best practice. There is a wind of change blowing through global sporting governance and we need to ensure we do not get left behind. In fact, as the country's national sport, we ought to be leading the way.
I know the organisation is currently reviewing this issue and there is an opportunity to seize the initiative by the way in which we reform ourselves. This is an emotive issue, and it is one that you all have a stake in deciding. I am proud to say that we in The FA have committed to playing our full part in pushing for better governance in football at FIFA and at a regional level. I think that you will agree with me that we ourselves, at The FA, must be as good as we can be as an organisation, fully representing society and serving the needs of 21st century football, if we still want to be listened to by the game elsewhere.
The decision on supporting progressive reform is rightly yours to make. I know you will consider it with the experience that befits your collective positions in the game.
And finally to the future, we know Greg has promised us back to back World Cup victories for the men and women in 2022 and 2023 – don’t worry, Greg, we will find you and hold you to account! More immediately we have an exciting year ahead of us with thrilling FA Cup competitions, for both the men and women, and the all-
important Euros this summer.
Thank you all for this wonderful lunch and for everything you do for the game we all love. It is an honour and privilege to be your President.