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October 2016
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International football is dying, and at last the media discover why.

By Tony Attwood

International football is dying.

It is a phrase that Untold wouldn’t use because the general view here is that it died a long, long time ago, and is now only kept alive by the corrupt and the gullible (see last few articles on this site).

To support international football is to support Fife and Uefa, and ok, if that is what you want to do, you can do it.  No one will stop you.

But now, with demonstrations being organised around the country this weekend to protest against Fifa and its behaviour over Qatar (including a demonstration before the Arsenal game against Swansea) it seems that there might be a movement growing which could ultimately bring down, if not Fifa, then its henchmen in the FA.

Do a search on the internet and you will find articles like “International football is dying, but there is a way to fix it” in the Telegraph International Football.   Or the piece “A Dying Phenomenon”  in 90min.   Or again “Statistics Show English International Football Is Dying” from Bleacher Report.   Alternatively there is “England team and international football suffering a long slow death” from the Independent.

Of course TV still covers international football but with ever declining audiences, and for much of the time the mainstream press won’t acknowledge the reality around them, but the fact is, international football is dying, and even when they won’t acknowledge it, the media knows it.

And so should international football die, given that it is run by Fifa and Uefa.

Of course, not everyone sees the issue in the same way – for example the Telegraph says, “International football – or to be more specific international football in Europe – offers an occasional moment of excitement amid hours of nauseating tedium.”   Thus it avoids focusing on the horrors that Fifa bequeaths on the world, but still it makes the point.   And it does add the additional tag, “The international break has left football fans craving the Premier League…. These symptoms are getting worse with every round of World Cup qualification.”

Now interestingly the Telegraph comes up with reasons for the death of international football which are quite different from my own.  They write of “the facilitating of lack of competition; both Fifa and Uefa enabling countries with zero chance of qualifying enjoy sightseeing trips to London, Paris and Rome.”

Untold on the other hand would focus on the death of workers in Qatar, the corruption, the greed, the diversion of tax payers money that should go to grassroots football into the pockets of the already super-rich, and the disgraceful behaviour of governments in supporting it all.

So here we have two utterly different arguments, both of which end up with the same conclusion – stop international football.   The Telegraph’s view that, “The reason so many countries are given this opportunity has nothing to do with a mythical idea of football equality – facilitating the growth of the game for smaller nations – as securing support for those in power. Prospective presidents would invite the Orkney Islands to play England in the run-up to World Cup 2022 if they thought one more vote would win their endorsement,” and the rest of us who think that it is all a waste of money run by the corrupt for the corrupt.

In some areas we can agree, as when the Telegraph says, “Football is meant to be entertaining. Few watching it – even the majority of Euro 2016 – can argue with credibility international football passes that test. That is why it is becoming little more than an unwanted interruption.”

There is a similar theme in 90mins  where they say, “A common feature noticed is that it is played at a much slower pace, the creativity and skill that is seen week in week out on the club stage is so blatantly absent.”

Bleacher’s article a while back took a different turn, noting that only 40,181 fans turned up for England’s international friendly at Wembley stadium against Norway on Wednesday, 3 September 2014. Adding that “This is only a few months after… two men—in the form of Carl Froch and George Groves—managed to attract 80,000 spectators in that exact stadium by competing in the less popular sport of boxing. Or—to add real insult to injury—ESPN reported the original Wembley stadium hosted the 1981 Speedway World Championship Final in front of 90,000 spectators.”

But there is more.  For not only are people increasingly reluctant to support internationals on moral grounds (if you do go, you are supporting the FA and Fifa and all that this entails) but also the TV audiences are collapsing.

According to The Telegraph, England matches can attract around half the viewers compared to the Great British Bake-Off (a cookery programme).

The TV audience for England’s game at Wembley, which itself was less than half-full, was 4.5m on ITV, peaking at 5.5m, while GBBO’s audience on BBC1 was 8.3m reaching a peak of 9.1m.

Meanwhile The Independent reported the World Cup final attracted “A peak audience of 20.64 million.” They also added this made “it the biggest UK TV audience since the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.”

So people prefer a closing ceremony (not a sporting event) to the world cup final.

And here’s another one:  According to the during one international “ThingsBetterThanBeingAtWembleyRightNow” was a trending topic on Twitter.

Maybe we should start #StopInternationalFootball

Of course while the FA fail at most things they are never short of another way of throwing money around as with their 2016 brand campaign during the Euros, something which came a cropper.  I mean, it is hard to support the notion of “Together for England” when we lose to Iceland.  Nor is it easy to get excited about supporting the team overseas when all the costs of overseas travel have just risen by 25% in the past two months following the collapse of the £.

The Independent tried a different angle by blaming the fans…

The pantomime patriots were graceless, obtuse and entirely predictable. They abused Rio Ferdinand to the soundtrack of a tone-deaf, brain-dead brass band. Only England could win 8-0 away from home and inspire such joylessness and contempt.

before moving on to say that “England have become a toxic football nation. Our irrationality irradiates the international game. Reasoned debate is drowned out by manufactured controversy, mutated loyalty and small-mindedness.”

This article was written before Hodgson resigned, before the Fatman was appointed and before the Fatman admitted he was, well most things that are not very nice.

And even before this they could comment…

“The fault line between club and country is widening. Premier League managers understandably resent risking players in friendlies and non-events such as the win in San Marino.”

Before the disaster that was the Euros the Indy was saying, “Ask yourself this: when did the national team last make the spirit soar or the heart sing? When did an individual act of brilliance or a collective imposition of will on England’s behalf stimulate the senses? Michael Owen’s sinuous goal against Argentina? Beating Germany 5-1? David Beckham’s injury-time free-kick against Greece? They were, respectively, in 1998, 2001 and 2001.”

But despite totally failing to grasp that a significant number of people dislike internationals because they are representative of the appalling FA and the awful Fifa, they do see a bit of the problem for the FA “whose financial future is wedded to that of the England team.”

Of course it is not just international football that is utterly corrupted and corrupting.  Below is a separate note from the Independent which appeared after the article on international football.   And it is quite true.  But if we could also get rid of international football, and put the tax payers money that is thus saved into school sports, we might be doing something rather good.

Schools must provide sporting education on a budget of £8,000 a year. West Ham United have been given a £630 million stadium for £15m, the price of a jobbing midfield player. That simple contrast, between need and greed, rhetoric and reality, exposes the great lie of the Olympic legacy. Suffer, little children.

ARSENAL: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 by John Sowman; foreword by Bob Wilson.

The Long Sleep recalls a time when professional footballers in England were inextricably tied by contract to their club and not allowed to earn more than the statutory maximum wage.  It traces Arsenal’s fortunes through that era, as well as the stand taken by one man who went on a 141 day strike against his club – a strike which led to the creation of football as we know it today.

Now available to purchase on line as book or Kindle version at


33 comments to International football is dying, and at last the media discover why.

  • HenryB

    A very interesting, indeed absorbing summation of the dire prospects currently and in the future for international football.

    Part of the reason for the deterioration and lack of respect for international football lies in the fact that society and domestic football have now entered a new era, that is to say, the fans ennui in watching their international teams dishing up some very uninspiring and deeply uninteresting fare when compared to some magical entertainment from their local clubs such as Arsenal, Bayern and Juventus, who on any given day would easily beat any international team put before them.

    The rapacious greed of the footballing authorities forever trying to milk the fans, the sponsors and the TV companies to feed their corrupt life styles is now becoming critical in a satiated market place.

    In short – if football was restricted to the top twenty nations competing every 2 or 3 years it might recapture its relevance, but as it is, I wold be happy to never see another international game again.

  • nicky

    Crumbs, HenryB you haven’t pulled any punches. But you are quite right of course.
    Other than wishing to attract patriotism, our national side simply cannot compete, on the entertainment front, with whatever club team we choose to favour.
    But could it be that the near full houses at Wembley has persuaded the misguided brethren at the FA that all is well? Surely not. 😉

  • Gord

    Idle thinking.

    The infant one has been musing in public that maybe the World Cup should be expanded to 48 teams. Supposedly the endless expansion is an effort to make things fair worldwide. My first thought about this, was how will managers give their players enough rest time in years with a World Cup, if the schedule is expanded to 48 teams?

    How about we interpret this statement as being a desire to change things? Instead of expanding to 48 teams, how can we change to drop the teams down to 16?

    It does no good to have a zillion teams all at the same quality level, as the expected finish will almost always be a tie. And then who wins and who loses is often determined in something similar to a lottery.

    Let’s say there is some value in who finished at the top of the previous World Cup, and that the FIFA rankings actually mean something. The top 4 teams of the previous World Cup are made group leaders for the next one. The last FIFA ranking before the World Cup (or better time?) then picks the next 4 highest placed teams for second place in all (4 of) the groups. We have now chosen 8 of the 16 participants. The other 8 places come from a world wide playdown, which is more or less constantly going on. At one year prior to the next World Cup, the next 4 highest placed teams are noted and seeded, and all the remaining teams enter a playdown to choose the other 8 teams for the tournament.

  • finsbury

    How many open goals did Slovenia just miss?

    Only the PGMOB can compensate for the consistently observable inability of THFC footballers to pass the bleedin’ FOOTBALL.

    International Football does have it’s uses: in exposing Dyke & Scudamore’s hype, bluster and gibberish,

  • finsbury

    “England haven’t been able to get Walcott and Lindgard into the game…”

    19 mins in. Has Alli made a pass yet?
    In there anyone in CM for England who can actually pass a FOOTBALL?

    “Good cross from Walcott…”

  • finsbury

    Tbf it’s a new eleven and some sluggishness is to be expected.

    And it’s possible that I am biased but surely the following changes would help improve England’s football:

    Gibbs > Rose
    Chamberlain > Alli
    Dyer (if fit? One that got away at youth level) > Walker

    Simple no?

  • Leon

    You know the England football team is in a mess when the best they can come up with for captain is Henderson.

  • Leon

    Townsend is an improvement on Walcott though.

  • Leon

    To get on topic. I don’t see the gullibility of being an England supporter. There’s probably ten million English fans watching this on TV. Are they all gullible?

  • finsbury

    No he wasn’t.

  • finsbury

    Chambers (& Holding) > Stones?

  • porter

    Don’t suggest it Finsbury , we should be more than happy that Arsenal’s players are not involved

    And unfortunately :- yes he was.

  • Robert

    It’s all very well to criticise Walcott, but he received absolutely no service from that idiot of a Totts right-back, nor the central midfielders who have yet to learn the art of passing forward.

  • markyb

    Finsbury – Cue the ‘Too many foreigners, we need to force premier teams to play technically inferior players more cos they is Ingerlish, which will magically add the technical ability they lack’ mantra.

  • Leon

    I try to completely disconnect from Arsenal when watching international football. In this manner I am not biased towards our players or against those from our rivals.
    Works for me!

  • Porter

    Theo is the kind of player that needs to be bought into the game. He won’t go looking for the ball and demand it.Too many England players just play for themselves, Rooney and Sturridge will only pass to him as a last resort and Walker keeps taking his space.

  • Super Singh

    Am I right in saying that big Sam A is the only England manager with a 100% record? Lol

  • MickHazel

    If I were Walcott I would politely tell the England manager to stick international football up his backside and have no more to do with it.
    Whenever he plays he appears to be flogging a dead horse, he makes run after run but the other players seem unable to read them, it must be really frustrating for him. The Tottenham players pass amongst themselves and seem reluctant to ever pass to Theo and Rooney has in the past openly shown his disapproval of Walcott. As a result he is a periphery figure and rarely gets a touch of the ball, England may as well play with ten men.

  • finsbury


    Next the sincere trolls will be telling us that Dawson and Shawcross are good CBs!

    Apart from sturridge and Rooney there was one player on the pitch who has scored valuable goals on the pitch for England and the ratio per apps in competitive games is decent for someone who hasn’t played CF (for England).

    Nevermind the facts eh. Iceland. Etc.

  • finsbury

    The last time England beat Slovenia (just) was thanks to an Arsenal squad player.

    These are the facts.

  • finsbury

    As an Arsenal fan I certainly enjoyed the goals when those lauded Footballers Rosicky and Alexis knew which cloggers they could chase down.

    You can dress a turd up with bells and whistles but it’ll still be known as:

    Mike Riley

  • finsbury

    Andy ‘goal kick’ Townsend?

    Have the above ever considered writing for the funny papers?

  • Pete

    Had the misfortune to watch the England game last night. Whole team were runners – no one who could pass, dribble or had any vision. No other leading football country would play a No.10 with so little technical ability. If that team played in the Premier League they would be bottom half at best.

    I guess I am spoilt watching Arsenal.

  • Leon

    Somebody seems well pissed about something. Whatever could have upset such a sweetheart.
    I’m sure he’ll regale us further with international heroics by Arsenal er ….heroes.
    Try taking your Arsenal hat off when watching England, you’ll get far more enjoyment.

  • Leon

    Watching international football (and specifically England) is the one opportunity to “like” players we hate week in week out, but not for some it would appear.
    I remember watching England v Croatia 2008 with Liverpool & Chelsea supporting friends (Kings Head, Tooting) and the whole pub rocked with “Theo!Theo!Theo!”, and I’ve regularly joined in with the “Rooney!,Rooney!,Rooney!” chants and I loved Gazza, Lineker, Owen, Beckham etc.
    Of course there are some who hate regardless of the situation and I pity them for their head up arse attitude.
    I see them here all the time.

  • HenryB

    Totally agree. I remember making the point to someone who said a couple of years back that Theo Walcott shouldn’t be playing for England because he can’t get in the Arsenal side.
    Dear boy… the England side would be torn to shreds by the Arsenal side. International football is not the pinnacle of the game.

    Oh and Eric Dier last night…. by name and nature.

  • engram

    Interesting stat that Theo has 47 England starts and has only completed 4 of them.

  • Gord

    It would be more interesting if you explicitly added the context of those games, instead of implying something. Probably negative. And I am sure explicit context would show that your implication is not as bad as you would like it to be.

  • Leon

    I don’t think Theo is programmed to play international football. That’s not saying he isn’t good enough, but that he only knows the “Arsenal way” which doesn’t fit with the style adopted by England’s coaches.
    I thought Southgate might be more progressive in his selections (and he still might), but he has a really limited (talentwise) pool of players to select from, but to suggest that they deliberately freeze Theo out is so juvenile.

  • engram


    Interesting stuff there and not long ago there was a narrative of an English group of players at Arsenal who would be that spine both for the club and national team. The project is no longer on the table for discussion and Theo is in a sense all that has survived. His record over ten years at Arsenal is hardly one to strike fear into an opposition. Roy Keane said about Theo ‘the guy needs to relax’ and play some convincing football for a season or more. Theo should listen to football voices and perhaps not marketing types.

  • finsbury

    “Swear heart”

    Garth Crooks, Robbie Savage and Alan Partdrige must be quaking in their replica boots.

  • finsbury

    Nevermind the facts eh disingenuous and dishonest aaa?

    Fact remains that Walcott has done more in an England shirt then any player in that squad bar Rooney.!

    Andy “Goal Kick Townsend”.

    With Experts like these it’s no great mystery how England can lose to Iceland at the Euro’s. And get outplayed at World Cups by Costa Rica and Ecuador.

    Never mind the facts (or record, or data etc.).

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