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How do we save international football? Here is a simple alternative to scrapping it totally.

By Tony Attwood

One of my regular arguments about the media and their handling of football is that they first select the agenda, then second warp it in some way, and then finally deliver their answers.  Those who see things from a different perspective never get a look in.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the subject of international football.  The notion that it should not be there at all, because it is

a) boring

b) an interruption to the normal season

c) a way for international managers to behave like car thieves who steal your car, wreck it, hand it back and tell you to have it ready again in a month or two.

d) run by people of dubious moral standing and in many cases proven criminal activity in relation to football and/or other financial affairs.

But these parts of the agenda are not allowed into the debate by the mass media and thus when the Telegraph asks “How do we save international football?” we know that in the follow up, “Our experts offer their solutions” few of our solutions will even get a mention.

In short the starting point throughout is generally that international football needs saving – although it is interesting that for the first time ever some of the respondents to the Telegraph are now suggesting that it can be left to rot.

But the Telegraph (being a newspaper and not a TV channel) admits that “International football is failing to draw the TV audiences like it once did and the level of interest in England continues to dwindle” which at least is a start.

Their ideas for “saving” international football include…

1: Broadcast junior teams’ games on terrestrial TV

2: Limit  the number of friendlies

3: Make World Cup a 16-team event and the Euros just eight

4: Get rid of qualifiers during a domestic season’

5: ‘Wake me up when the real football returns’

This one is the answer that gets the closer to my view, saying, “You can keep the whole miserable lot of it, your No Surrender and your plastic chairs and the lumpen, leaden pea-hearted frauds of the Premier League getting turned over by the first half-decent side they face. I’m with Andrew Cole; I’ve retired from it. Wake me up when the real football is back.”

6: It’s going to be ok because we are all going to war.

7: ‘Do away with qualifiers on a Thursday night’

8: Condense friendlies into a short period in the summer

9: Get rid of qualifiers altogether

10: Create a two-tier qualifying system

And my solution:

The UK government should wind up the FA on the grounds that it wastes tax payers money and is grossly incompetent.  That will get Fifa to suspend the FA from all international participation because governments are not allowed to interfere in football, under Fifa rules.  (It is something that is just part of the Fifa aggrandisement programme – it likes to think of itself as a state).

Then either we have no internationals at all (my first choice) or if we utterly, absolutely must, countries are grouped into little regional leagues of maybe four countries each, each of roughly the same merit and ability, and they play each other once, as we did in the days of the old “Home Nations” championship.

And then here is the additional point: there is promotion and relegation, but it is based primarily on the size of the crowd.  So where there is no real interest in the match the nation goes down the pyramid, and where there are big crowds (and thus a real interest in the match) the nation can go up the league.

Countries could also agree to move leagues without this measure of crowd size, if they both agree. So England and Scotland might want to be in the same league, and they could arrange this if they both want it.

It is of course wholly artificial, but then so is the whole international thing.  England have had a player in their side who wasn’t born in England, and nor were his parents and this stops it being a serious international game.  All countries can claim a player as their own if his/her grandparent was born in transit in that country.

And then I would like to add one more rule.  Clubs can refuse to let players go and play in internationals.  So when a player signs for a club there would be discussion as to whether the player wanted to be released for internationals or not.  The club might decide then to pay the player a little more for not accepting international call ups, and that would be fair enough.

And to brighten it up a bit more, here’s another innovation.  The players should elect an honorary manager for each three game tournament.  Such a manager just serves for that tournament and then goes back to his day job.

No Fifa, no Uefa, and quite possibly no FA.  And no international managers lurking around with nothing to do all day through most of the year, except talk to fake journalists about accepting vast amounts of money to speak at non-existent meetings.

Arsenal History Books on Kindle

The novel “Making the Arsenal” by Tony Attwood which describes the events of 1910, which created the modern Arsenal FC, is now available for the first time on Kindle.  Full details are here.

Also available on Kindle, “Woolwich Arsenal: the club that changed football” the only comprehensive history of the rise of Arsenal as a league club, and the attempts to destroy the club, from within and without.   For full details please see here.

Both books are also available as paperbacks.  Please see here.

7 comments to How do we save international football? Here is a simple alternative to scrapping it totally.

  • nicky

    I like the idea of the Government winding up the FA and FIFA acting accordingly. Maybe such a forced secession from the corrupt governance of FIFA could encourage other footballing nations to follow suit.
    The fact remains though, that tribal allegiance to club football, coupled with poor performances by the national team has resulted in lack of interest in the international scene….certainly insofar as English football is concerned. 😉

  • WalterBroeckx

    Do we need to save it?????

  • omgarsenal

    What ARE the principle reasons and arguments for preserving ¨international¨ Football outside of the WC or the European championship? It seems to me that it is basically monetary….FIFA,EUFA and small national associations can get big bucks for having their middling team play against the big guns and maybe upset them (Island versus England anyone?).

    For England, it is a constant stream of embarrassments and pathetic tragedy-comedy theatrics. As Tony points out, it puts players at risk of injury,fatigue, discouragement, ridicule by their own national fans, and drastic tactical and strategic changes to the way they play for their clubs.

    I particularly hate so-called ¨friendlies¨, which are not only pointless in the extreme BUT also demanding, expensive for the national FA’s (despite gate receipts) and potentially dangerous for the players. As a retired national referee, I can attest to the fact that friendlies are anything of the sort….no player wants to lose a friendly and they try just as hard in those games as in full internationals….that is the nature of Football players….whose nationalism isn’t less than anyone else’s.

    Lets stop all this BS and just stick with the WC qualifiers and games, the European championships and league fixtures. If nations want to warm-up before the above internationals, they can play in a mini-tournament over a two week period just before the big tournaments….just like they do in their pre-season preparations.

  • Ben

    But if the friendly games are scrapped then England’s world ranking might actually reflect their true standing.

  • Leon

    “Do we need to save it?????”

    Of course we do, and Don’s suggestions are by far the most worthy I’ve read on the subject .

  • Leon

    ………not forgetting the African, Asian & Americas competitions of course

  • Gooner S

    Before you can save International Football our footballing authorities need to decide that it’s more important than the National game and treat both fairly and accordingly. If it’s not then withdraw from it or at least make that known.

    Additionally, I think our views would be different if we had a successful National team. So to drive a more successful team invest in grass roots football, more football pitches, more British managers/coaches, limit foreign players (easier after Brexit) in the UK game and make professional football more affordable to watch whether on the TV or attending games. You can add to this re-vamp the FA and here we may need foreign expertise in the short term to revamp or replace.