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All Things Footie | Thursday, December 2 | Jordan

Time for a change?

It’s been a while … checks date of previous post … Jesus, it really has. No weak excuses, just an inexcusable lack of them.

I was listening to Sky Sports News yesterday (always good TV when making a cuppa and you’ve missed Coronation Street) and heard a rekindling of the FA/PFA/Football League/Bloody Foreigners etc debate involving that pus filled bubo Gordon Taylor, Gareth Southgate and other sundry Oxygen thieves. The football league are complaining that the FA are becoming more and more focused on the elite (the Premiership and, by reputation only, the England team), and that they no longer impartially represent the interests of football at all levels. There’s absolutely no way anyone can refute this accusation. The FA are a cash sapping, sycophantic bunch of self interested corporate lackeys whose only interest is in their own bank balances or their own celebrity.

My long term nemisis, Sven Goran Eriksson, typifies the attitude of our game’s governing body; sucking up to the superstars (in Eriksson’s case the players, in the FA’s case the Premiership clubs) and not giving a monkey’s about anyone else. A superficial interest in the lower levels is apparent, but the actions only reflect the needs of the top 3 or 4% of the game. The youth development centre for excellence in Burton is already 10 years late when you consider the infrastructure in other big European footballing nations, but to delay it further in order to spend a small countries Gross Domestic Product on first knocking down and the totally rebuilding the oldest and most prestigious national football stadium in the world is irresponsible at best.

What the game needs is a totally independant, non profit making, non political body that has football at it’s heart. There are plenty of decision makers at the FA who’ve probably never even seen a first division (Coca Cola Championship, whatever) game, let alone a Dr Martins or Ryman’s league match. People who can’t imagine why anyone would even consider supporting a team in a lower league (‘they must support a team in the Premiership too?’). This myopia has to stop, and unless teams ‘underneath’ the Premiership start seeing some equality and support from the governing body then serious professional football in this country is going to die a death outside of a small number of elite league(s). More teams will go under, history will be lost, and we’ll end up living in the country where the game was invented watching sterilised uber athletes playing perfect football all the time.

While I do appreciate beautiful football, and the wonderful spectacle that are Premiership games, there’s something soul warming in knowing that not far away there are some builders, plumbers, accountants and tea-boys doing exactly the same thing—perhaps not quite as beautifully, but with no less passion, effort and dedication. The game belongs to us all, and it should remain so.

Don’t get me started on agents.

Which brings me on to Mr Southgate’s comments. Clearly, dear Gareth is grooming himself for management, either of a football club or in some dull coporate organisation, as he seems to be the person that all journalists flock to when they want someone to get a little Xenophobic and express that delightful trait of Englishness that blames everyone but ourselves. Foreign players are to blame for the decline in English football—of course they are Gareth. All of the money being paid out to foreign clubs is money lost by the English game—your grasp of corporate finance is extraordinary sir!

The first point is simple enough to counter, if English players were good enough, and certain chairmen of lower league clubs weren’t so greedy, there would not be so many foreigners in the Premiership. When Arsene Wenger, or Alex Ferguson, or José Mourinho want to buy and English player, they pay through the nose for inexperience, when Brazillian world cup winners can be bought for the same price as half a Kieran Dyer. Our own inflated egos and misplaced sense of greatness is what’s killing English football. Once we accept we’re not that good, and that we vastly overrate our own players when compared to equivalents from other countries, then we’ll start getting somewhere.

The second of Southgate’s point at least has some basis in fact, but it fails to take into account the International audience that has been awakened by the flocking of starlets from all four corners of the globe to England. The aquisition of numerous World Class players has elevated the status of the Premiership and brought in millions from worldwide licensing that our old dull, long ball, ‘gritty’ game never did. These new players, these ‘foreigners’ have enlivened our game, have made it watchable, have made it better. We should be thankful, never before in the history of English football have we seen such a mix of talent parading itself for our enjoyment. It’s only a shame that it is monopolised so much by the Premiership and the biggest teams. As long as football remains a business, and as long as the FA remains in the pocket of the Premiership, it’ll never be the case that the games financial assets are used fairly, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor, well, poorer.

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