The FA chief executive Martin Glenn said he takes inspiration from John Lewis as he seeks to turn around public perception of the embattled organisation.
The FA is currently amid a crisis following the England football team’s continued underperformance and question marks over the association’s relevance.
MPs gave The FA a vote of “no confidence” last month after it failed to make its board and council more representative of the sport.
Glenn said the not-for-profit organisation had to govern itself by the highest standards and used John Lewis as a beacon to follow.
“We ask ourselves, ‘do we want to be John Lewis or the Co-op?’ One is a highly successful, externally oriented, and does a lot for its people – the other less so,” he told delegates at Retail Week Live.
The Co-op, which former chief executive Euan Sutherland declared as “ungovernable”, was forced into reforming its governance in 2014 but has since made great strides to turn around the business.
Glenn advised those undertaking turnarounds like the one he is embarking on at The FA to take tough action.
“We have to be tough. If you court popularity, you will ultimately fail. We’ve got to put the foundations in place at grassroots and not seek to be popular, but to be respected,” he said.
Glenn’s guide for marketers
Glenn, who made his name as a marketer at FMCG companies including PepsiCo and Birds Eye, said marketers were to blame for business failures.
He said failure meant that the business has “lost connection with what’s going on in the outside”, the responsibility for which he placed at the hands of marketing executives.
Glenn said marketers need to be responsible for driving sales at an organisation. “Marketers need to not just spend the money but make the money,” he said.