By Tony Attwood
Some years ago I came across a company where the finance manager had been skimming off money for her own benefit for years. She was found out when the firm changed auditors and the new auditor started asking questions the old auditor should have asked, but didn’t.
What happened next was interesting. No one sued the old auditor for failing to do is job. The old finance manager went on “sick leave” and refused to answer any questions. The company then invited her to resign in return for no further action. She accepted and walked away without a stain on her character, all the money she had nicked, and able to go and perpetrate the same scam elsewhere.
When I asked why the firm had allowed both the auditor and the administrator to walk away the answer was simple. Any legal proceedings would reveal just how awful the directors control of the company had been. Besides the auditor was a friend of the family. So the directors, who were completely incompetent arses, carried on, and the cycle of events continued.
You can take this story as an example of what happens in football – and come to that in sport in general. There is a total cock up of monumental proportions, but ultimately the same people run the same show and nothing changes.
Fifa is a perfect example – it is corrupt, bent and utterly unfit for running a window cleaning business, let alone a multi-national football operation, and yet it carries on. The bodies below Fifa won’t act because they are as awful as Fifa and love feeding from the trough, and the people who could hold them to account (the advertisers who support them, and the broadcasters who pay them) absolutely won’t take them on.
It has been interesting to see of late that it is not just football that has this problem. The world of athletics seems as screwed up, and is responding in the same way. “Nothing really wrong old boy, just leave it to us, don’t you worry your little head about it, leave it to the grown ups.”
And then, what do you know, tennis is involved, and its the same again. “Nonsense – if there was a problem don’t you think we’d be doing something about it?”
Well, actually no, largely because in each of the sports, all the bodies that are supposed to check on the other bodies, are made up of the same cronies who pat each other on the back and say nothing is wrong. The auditor was a friend of the family remember.
Doping, match-fixing, the curious case of the PGMO refusing to appoint more referees so we get the same refs over and over again, or indeed the case of the ref who actually scored a lower ranking in a match than if he had made decisions on a wholly random basis…. add such things to what we know about Fifa and the FA and the mess becomes so awful its hard to see a way through.
There are criminal matters going on here, but even with “unusual betting patterns” the civil authorities seem reluctant to get involved. And we know that Fifa sees itself as a country, paying no tax, answerable to no national laws.
When we come down to local affairs, it is quite shocking to see that Greg Dyke is not seeking re-election as chairman to the FA, because he is seen as too reformist! This man who has supported Fifa and Uefa all the way through, spent millions on bidding for a world cup slot that everyone seemed to know was fixed, is fixated with the wholly false notion that the number of home grown players playing in the Premier League has an impact on how well England play… is too radical in his approach!!!!
Apparently his plan to reform the FA Council was running into problems. And just looking at the FA Council tells you why there is such a total screw up. It has 21 Life and Senior Vice Presidents drawn from such bodies as Cambridge University FA, Leicestershire & Rutland FA, the Independent Schools FA..
Then six vice presidents, eight representatives of the Premier League, eight representatives of the Football League, ten divisional representatives, 43 county association representatives, eight representatives of affiliated organisations, nine representatives of other football associations (such as the University of Oxford Football Association, and several organisations that have already got special representation in earlier mentioned sections), one supporters representative, one disability representative, two inclusion representatives, a chief executive officer and two independent non-executive directors.
Now this is not all bad. One of the divisional representatives is a member of Poole Town, and I rather like that. But otherwise… And there is one representative of supporters. Pretty much puts us in our place.
An independent report by Lord Burns recommended urgent change a decade ago, but hey, what’s a decade when your nose is in the trough. (Apart from the man from Poole Town FC of course, who is undoubtedly doing sterling work).
It is no wonder that this organisation, when given money by Sport England to spend on grass roots football, then had it taken away again because it wasn’t doing what it should have done. The FA blamed the weather. Worse, not a single one of the media in England woke up enough to wonder what was going on. Indeed they still publish Greg Dyke’s statements in which he claims he would leave behind him a “bold plan to build many more all-weather pitches”. Except that the plan has no money inside it, despite the FA’s £30m cost cutting plan which incorporated 100 redundancies as it seeks to balance the books.
Above all, the FA backs Fifa. It backed Blatter. Then it backed Platini. Now it will back whoever else comes along. Because that is what they do. It has criticised the head of the UK Anti-Doping agency for even suggesting football may have a performance enhancing drugs problem. “How dare you say that of us,” sums up the FA’s vision of cheating in football. They are rather down on Arsène Wenger, who for a long time has advocated tackling doping in football.
Mr Wenger claimed that Uefa supported by the FA “basically accepts doping.” The FA’s director of football governance and administration, Darren Bailey said these comments were “unhelpful.”
So it goes on. The Football Association has had to pay out £10m for the redundancy programme and made a loss in its last accounts. It is also still trying to pay for Wembley, so desperately hopes it can do a deal with Tottenham and/or Chelsea for a year or three, to help bail itself out.
And behind all this is still the nonsense. Dyke says, “Only a third of players in our top league last season were eligible to play for England despite millions of pounds invested in fantastic academies for, as yet, apparently little return … something is going wrong and I remain convinced of the need to do something about it.”
Curiously no one actually analysed what it was that successful football nations on the world stage had in common, until Untold did. In an article I’ve quoted many times (because I was rather pleased with that day’s work) from 2010, and which has been republished without acknowledgement in the Telegraph in 2013, we showed that the key issue was the number of coaches in relation to the number of players. If you are interested in this topic there is more on it here
In England the coaches figure is incredibly low, compared to most other countries. Since then we’ve shown that this is because the FA charges so much for its coaching courses – many many times more than is charged in other countries. They do it because… they are short of money.
Maybe if they just wound themselves up, and got out of the business of football once and for all, we’d all be that bit better off.
- 1 February 2004: Arsenal 2 Man C 1. The 23rd league game of the Unbeaten Season and the second game in a run of nine consecutive wins. Man C scored an own goal and Henry got the second. Anelka scored for Man C and was then sent off.
- 1 February 2006: Arsenal 2 WHU 3, Sol Campbell substituted at his request at half time, and left the club for five days. This was Arsenal’s second consecutive defeat after the 7-0 win over Middlesbrough. Henry overtook Bastin’s goalscoring feat.
The Untold Books
The latest book from Untold is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with an introduction by Bob Wilson. Details of this and our other titles can be found Arsenal Books on this site.