Gary Neville has compared Gordon Taylor’s position at the PFA to the last days of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, as the process of finding a new leader for the players’ union was finally confirmed.
A panel of four non-executive directors have been appointed to oversee the recruitment of a new PFA chief executive. Darren Hardman, Trevor Johnson, Ebru Köksal and Geoff Thompson, each of whom boast formidable careers inside and outside the game, will work with the PFA’s Players Board to draw up a job description before interviews for the role take place next spring. Neville, who helped appoint the directors, believes the change presents a “massive opportunity for the PFA to thrive in the next 10 to 15 years”.
It had been right that the three white men who had selected the directors had been criticised for a lack of ethnic and gender diversity, Neville said. They had, he argued, become “a representation of what has been happening in the game”. Three of the four new directors are from an ethnically diverse background, meanwhile, with Köksal the sole woman in the group.
Neville defended the tenure of Taylor, however, who has led the PFA since 1981 and has latterly been the subject of great controversy, most recently over his £2m salary and accusations that the union has failed properly to support the families of former footballers now suffering from dementia.
“In the 80s, 90s and even 00s, [Taylor] was an ambassador for players, he fought for players, he made sure he defended players rights,” Neville said. “This new individual has to do the same thing but in 2020. There’s a massive opportunity here for the PFA to thrive in the next 10, 15 years. There are lot of live issues that the PFA are being looked at to answer on.
“I suspect the new CEO will be somebody the players can trust has integrity and that they will believe will respond to current and former players’ needs. It’s critical that the new leader does that. I think Gordon has done it for a long period of time, but I think in the last few years – similar to what happened to Arsène Wenger – I think everyone became a little tired.”
Taylor confirmed last month that he will be stepping down at some point before the end of this season. An independent review into the union’s governance, meanwhile, is still waiting to be published. Neville said it was “right” that the new directors should be given a chance to read the report before a decision is taken on whether to make it public. “It must surely be that they are given consideration as to whether and when it’s released or not,” he said.