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THE FUTURE… how football could be dragged into the 21st century

THE FUTURE……………..Don McMahon

In my most recent post on Untold Arsenal, I briefly outlined and proposed a series of actions which could help bring Football into the 21st century. I will now attempt to elucidate how I know they could be applied practically speaking :

  • My first proposal was that a draft system be created and administered by FIFA in which the world’s best young players would be drafted by the weakest clubs in their division. (Already very successfully used by the NHL and NFL).

Basically it could work like this. The top 400-500 (or more) youth players worldwide would have their names entered into a draft list, and every professional league worldwide would be given the opportunity to pick a player, based on his(her?) draft rank, with the weakest teams in each league going first.

The weakest teams could, at will, trade or sell their draft choice to a stronger team, but only from their league, in exchange for another adult player or cash, or even other draft picks who are lower down the pecking order. This could also work for adult professional players.

  • My second proposal was for the creation of a salary cap, again enforced by FIFA, which would ensure that insane amounts from a clubs budget don’t go to just one or two individuals. (Already used by the NHL and NFL and NBA).

Here we would have a maximum % of the Clubs revenue being allocated to salaries and a limit to the maximum any one player could earn at ANY club worldwide. Other compensation (advert $, PR appearances, book sales etc.) would NOT be calculated in this cap.

  • Proposal number three would have a requirement that a majority owner provides up to 25% of shares in the Club to its supporters in order for his or her Club to play in a professional league.

These could be NON voting shares in order to prevent a hostile takeover by a third party. It could also allow for a supporters’ representative(s) to be on the Board of the Club in a non-voting capacity.

  • My next proposal was that there be a requirement that every professional Club provide a minimum of 2 FA certified coaches and 2 referee candidates to their local amateur league(s).

These need NOT be active players or manager but could be Ex-players, supporters who are not currently coaches or referees, or even from another club who has an excess of volunteers.

  • Another idea was that 5% of the annual net profits for EPL teams be set aside for the development of local football clubs, coaches and referees, including infrastructure and development needs.

When I say local football clubs, they WOULD NOT be affiliated in any way with the Club itself. They could be at any level as long as they were 100% amateur and registered members of the FA and their local Football league/Association, in good standing

  • My favourite idea was that the FA be disbanded and replaced by a democratically elected Football Development corporation whose principal objective would be to promote and develop the Game in England.

Candidates would be nominated from a pool of current professional Football managers, retired players and former administrators, as well as a few from among the supporters of professional Clubs and administrators of amateur football.

Their responsibilities would include (among others) applying proper and fit criteria to professional club ownership, fields and services growth and development for amateur Football in the entire country, officials whether amateur or professional including appointments and professional referee selection, assessment and training, but NOT referee discipline and the application of any FIFA/EUFA regulations and decisions. The FDC would work hand in hand with the review Board.

  • My second to last proposal was the creation of an independent “ dubious” calls review Board administered by the sports minister with the express objective of reviewing suspicious or poor Football officiating at all levels.

Its aegis would extend to amateur and professional levels and would NOT be punitive (unless illegal activity was detected) but rather remedial and educational. Should any hint of illegal or corrupt practices at the professional level be uncovered, they would immediately place the file in the hands of

  • Finally that the FFP implementation and authority be invested directly in the EU and that their legal departments be mandated with the task of overseeing all transactions in professional football, both at the youth and adult level.

This impartial, non-football mandate would ensure that political pressure could be effectively avoided and at the same time a stringent but fair application of the FFP rules was assured. It would also ensure transparency and accountability as every member nation of the EU would have equal representation and opportunity to follow any implementation issues.

I have a few ideas about a European super-league and a real World Club competition modelled on the current CL but that will need to wait for another time. Please let me know your ideas but politely as always.

Anniversary of the day

  • 20 July 1998: Uefa approved Arsenal’s application to stage Champions League games at Wembley.  The move allowed over twice as many people to see the games as would be possible at Highbury, and provided proof that the club could draw in enough support to fill the imagined new stadium.



22 comments to THE FUTURE… how football could be dragged into the 21st century

  • Samrat Jha

    Don, your first proposition needs some further elaboration.For example would a Japanese youth player be eligible to play in England? Should there be a country wise or area specific list? More importantly will the players have a say with regard ro which club they want to play for.As for the rest of the suggestions they are welcome IMHO.

  • Andy Mack

    It’s inhuman. How could you ask any young player, whether they’re from Ethiopia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Belize or Glasgow, to go to Hull!
    It’ll never happen unless there’s a ‘hardship’ payment to the child as well.
    Around €uro 1m for hull or Sheffield, down to £1.38 for somewhere like Leyton Orient.

  • Big Lebowski

    You forgot to mention agents (The bloodsuckers of the game) Instead of taking millions out of game with transfer fees they should have a percentage of the player’s salary who are on there books. This what happens in the book and music world.

  • colario

    The ‘draft system’ in the States is I believe based on players who attend college or this side of the pond university.

    I am not a great student of American sports but I have never heard of teams that play within a draft system having their own youth set up as Arsenal does.

    Then as been pointed out you seem to be saying a youngster in one country could end up in another country. This already happens but as a result of the import club having agreed with all parties concerned not because the youngster or professional player’s name appears on a list of players deemed good enough for a list to be picked on.

    I can’t see the FA suits agreeing to giving up their lunch ticket.

  • Gord

    Their are two sources to the draft, one being the college system and the other being “Juniors”.

  • Gord

    NCAA says that Canadian Juniors are professional, where as Canadian sports people say it isn’t. Hence, a Junior player can go on to a Canadian university after becoming too old to play Juniors.

    Looking at Edmonton Oil Kings (a Junior team), they play a 72 game season. Minnesota Gophers (NCAA Big 10) play about a 35-40 game season.

    Juniors tends to be a more physical league, with a lot more fighting. Or, it used to be that way, things could have changed.

  • arse_or_brain

    “Candidates would be nominated from a pool of current professional Football managers, retired players and former administrators, as well as a few from among the supporters”
    so fat sam, robbie savage, skudamore and peirce morgan. Not a great bunch, unfortunatley you could get the same amount of crap as your trying to replace.

  • Jack

    I’m sorry Don but the idea of a “draft” is daft. You say “Already very successfully used by the NHL and NFL” but you clearly haven’t thought it through.

    World football is a completely different animal to any of the American sports.

    The only reason that a draft works in American sports is that the number of professional leagues one can go to is very, very limited – even more so if you want to make big money. Even then, there is little international participation in most of the American sports. MLB does not include International players in their draft, nor does the NFL (mostly because hardly anyone else plays it) and the NBA (and, I believe NHL) – even though they pay more – are only reserving the rights to that player should they ever choose to play in the that particular league. They can stay in Europe (or wherever) and the team who drafted them doesn’t get anything.

    In addition, there is a large (and closed) pool of players to choose from in the American college and high school ranks. If there were no colleges, if young players were trained and their skills nurtured by those same NFL/NHL/NBA/MLB/MLS teams, as is done by all teams around the world of Football, the entire “draft” process would fall apart because no-one would ever agree to it. That is even assuming that there were a valid way to compare teams in entirely different leagues, which there clearly isn’t.

    It may fall apart anyway, if a college player ever decides to challenge the draft process in court because he refuses to play for the team that drafted him and they won’t release him or trade his rights to a team that meets his preferences. American sports seems to tread a fine line when it comes to labour laws as it is. It’s easy to sit here and say “it’ll never happen” but how many of us saw the Bosman ruling coming in 1995?

  • Shakabula Gooner

    The international pool system is too unwieldy to work.
    Would a European youth agree to transfer to a league in Sudan? Or you think Sudan doesn’t belong to FIFA?

  • Jerry

    Just to counter your opinion in regards to the draft, the draft and youth academy system seems to be working well for soccer/football development in the United States. The academy teams of multiple professional clubs and organizations participate in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The professional teams can sign the players right from their youth programs or after their college careers based on the “homegrown protected list”.

    From my understanding, the players that are not on the list, enter the draft after college. This protects the investment clubs make into the youth players, while also developing a large pool of talented players for the national team to select. It’s a win-win for the players (expenses covered + professional training), the teams (develop homegrown players), and the national team. The only loser in this is high school soccer because the players are not allowed to represent their school teams.

  • Jerry

    The only tweaking I would make to the draft recommendation is to perform the draft based on country and then league to avoid any potential visa issues. For instance, players developed in England can only participate in the draft by English teams. For instance, the first two rounds are by PL teams, Rounds 3 and 4 could be by Championship teams, Rounds 5 and 6 by Football League One, etc…. down the league system

  • omgarsenal

    Thanks for the thought-provoking comments. The draft idea could be done by national association or even by continental association so EUFA would have their own draft, CONCACAF there own etc.
    As far as a player from Sudan coming to play in England, why not? Howeveor the draft does NOT force a player to play for the team he is drafted to, but that player can be “traded” to another team for a cash or transfer option.
    It is true that most youth are developed by the professional clubs BUT only a few pay any attention to their youth setup, Arsenal and Barca being the best examples of clubs that actively develop youth players for their first teams. Most clubs buy the stars they want, and my idea would not stop that but would promote the youth players’ chances quite a bit.
    Jack , I take your point but Jerry’s reply explains it very succintly.

  • Jack

    @Jerry Your point is valid but you miss the fact that we’re still talking about a closed pool of players. No international players are involved. That’s really at the heart of my argument.

  • Jack

    @omgarsenal Not wishing to belabour the point, but Jerry’s argument assumes that this is within a single country. After the Bosman ruling it would be naive to think that European labour laws would allow a draft like that.

  • para

    July 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm
    I agree with you, this is just not going to work in football at all, at least i cannot envisage it working.

    Concerning referees, they need to get their act together and form a referees organisation that caters for the current and provide future refs. It is disgraceful that refs are so disadvantaged among all this money that flows in football.

    When big money is involved, it is very hard to get everyone playing by the rules, we see this everyday in life, especially in this FFP sordid affair.

    Alas the only way (for me) we can make football immediately better, is to have the rules of the football game to be absolute so there is no room for any ambiguity at all. A player does an action, then there is a punishment. Full stop. No ifs, no buts.

  • M18CTID


    A good follow-up article to the previous one this. Sure, there are flaws in some of your suggestions but no-one can deny a lot of your ideas are fair even if they were difficult to implement. It’s a shame that there have been a low number of responses so far. You may have missed it but I made a further post on your earlier article yesterday re the FSF summit last weekend so will re-post it here:

    “omgarsenal (aka Don – I wasn’t aware you were one and the same person until I saw your response lol),

    Firstly, I totally concur with the 25% suggestion – there’s nothing I’d like more than for fans to have a stake in every club in the country. As long as we weren’t responsible for picking the team and deciding on tactics, etc – that would be the definition of organised chaos!

    Most of your other suggestions make perfect sense to me and many other fans but getting the 1% to give up some of their power (and money) is a job in itself. That said, the FSF summit was very interesting and showed that when fans get organised they can make a difference. You’re absolutely bang on the money when you say that football without fans is nothing – as successful as the Premier League is, I doubt whether the TV companies would pay as much for the rights if the games were played in front of half-empty stadia. Interestingly, the head of the FSF said that it’s not a case of there being too much money in football but the issue is more a case of where that money is going. As we know, it seems to be going to the clubs, players, and agents and too little of it is being distributed down the lower leagues or going back to the fans in terms of subsidising ticket prices. But on the latter, there definitely is some significant movement – Swansea, who incidentally are part-owned by their fans so this will not come as too much of a surprise, are subsidising every single one of their fans that travels to away matches next season to the extent that none of them will pay more than £22 a ticket. Other clubs are exploring the idea of reciprocal pricing where they agree with a particular club to charge their respective fans the same amount.

    There was also a meeting between Barclays and reps from Spirit Of Shankly (Liverpool supporters group) and the FSF on Friday. SOS and the FSF wanted to put Barclays in the picture as to some of the things that the fan groups are campaigning for and hoping that they can use their influence as the Premier League’s sponsor to “lean” on the Premier League in some way. Somewhat surprisingly, Barclays were in favour of some of the proposals so hopefully we can see some movement on various issues in due course.

    There was a funny moment when speaking to an Everton fan, and it shows why football club rivalries should be left at the door when it comes to these things. Apparently last season Spurs fans wanted to do something for the North London derby (not sure what – possibly a protest over ticket prices) which would’ve involved Arsenal fans as well in a joint protest. Trouble is, the guy from the Spurs fan group asked the Everton guy to act as an intermediary because he said he couldn’t bring himself to talk to the Arsenal group directly!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Don , I do hope that your vision comes to pass ,even though there are many pitfalls , conflicts , and issues to clear up.
    The language for example ?

    5 Germans in an Audi Quattro arrive at the Italian Border.

    The Italian Customs Officer stops them and tells them,
    “It’s a illegala to putta 5 People in a Quattro.”

    “Vot do you mean it’s illegal?” Asks the German driver.

    “Quattro meansa four” replies the Italian Official.

    “Quattro is just ze name of ze Automobile….” The German says unbelievingly,

    “Look at ze dam papers: ze car is designed to karry 5 Persons”.

    “You canta pulla thata one on me!” replies the Italian Customs Officer, “Quattro meansa four. You have five-a people ina your car and you are thereforea breaking the Law.”

    The German driver replies angrily, “You idiot! Call your zupervisor over. I vant to speak to someone viz more intelligence!”

    “Sorry….” Responds the Italian officer, “He can’ta come.

    He’sa busy wit 2 Passengers who arrived in a Fiat Uno.”

  • Gord

    What if they were in a Chrysler 300?

  • omgarsenal

    I am so pleased to see such intelligent and thoughtful commentary minus the usual Club tribalism. There is no doubt that most if not all of my ideas are neither new or without controversy and most are very challenging to implement BUT not impossible.
    If we as supporters of Football manage to get a common front together, and since we represent millions of people in the UK and hundreds of millions worldwide, the stuffed suits in the FA,FIFA and EUFA will be obliged to listen. It is the power of people to the nth degree and despite the reservations expressed on UA, I firmly am convinced that such power would eventually have a teremendous impact….especially if it hit the TV networks AND Clubs in the pocketbook.
    M18CTID…..great report on the FSF meetings. It is indeed funny that the Totts reticence to have anything to do with Gooners is supremely evident even at a mutually beneficial level! It is precisely this myoptic attitude that prevents us from getting anywhere as a common front.

  • Gord

    Sorry, off on the other end

    A friendly between Argentina and Brazil has been cancelled, because the swindlers for Argentina are all in jail and not able to swindle effectively.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord – July 22, 2015 at 3:06 am – But they are still throwing money at Blatter !

  • Gord

    It’s too bad FIFA is charging that guy with trespassing, I hope he beats the charge.

    On the corruption front, the Thai FA General Secretary has had his hands slapped by the Thai courts (for falsifying registration documents). Too bad the Thai courts didn’t give serious jail time.