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England, Fifa, FA, corruption, incompetence. The ancien régime approaches its end.

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By Tony Attwood

So what does England really do about this world cup stuff?

There are some interesting options such as

1: Get deep inside Fifa and try to reform what must be the most corrupt sporting body ever seen on the planet.

2: Stay in Fifa, but have nothing to do with their coaching schemes, and their special projects.

3: Recognise that Fifa is corrupt, and be thankful that unlike many members of Fifa we have a country in which the corruption can be exposed (even if most of our media refused even to recognise it up til the moment the bid result was announced.)

Trouble is, each approach unfortunately raises more questions than it answers.  If we get inside Fifa does that mean we don’t expose the deep corruption of the organisation?  If we stay inside do we do nothing about the fact that England is to be discriminated against, probably for the next 30 or 40 years?

I have another idea – that we should actually just ignore the whole load of rubbish, and start trying to sort out our own problems – leaving corrupt Fifa to muck about however it wants.  (Actually of course I would like England to pull out totally, but that won’t happen, so I’m not even bothering to look at that alternative.)

So, I turn my own question around and ask, what did the world cup bid reveal about what is wrong with football in England?  Here’s a few thoughts.

1: We are utterly naive – as witness the fact that England put in a bid and seriously thought we were going to win – even up to the last minute.  The corruption of Fifa has been outlined for years by the Observer newspaper (not a paper I like, but one that has actually kept up the assault in its Said & Done column for a long time).   Goodness, you could even have got a picture about how corrupt the whole show is from the FICK FUFA articles we have published over the last few years.

So operation number 1: stop being so pathetically simplistic when dealing with international bodies.  Make the starting point that this is a mafia-style organisation run by crooks often for crooks.

2: We like to blame the media. I don’t like what English newspapers do, and I am horrified by the dreadful blandness of a lot of our TV, not the mention the childishness of sport on radio.   But if that is the price to pay for the occasional bouts of investigative journalism, then so be it.  I don’t have to read it or watch it, and I turn the sound off when a game is on Sky TV.  But I want the media to be there to expose what’s going on.

Especially at this moment when there are voices raised everywhere suggesting that Wikileaks should be banned across the internet. I want freedom of expression protected not curtailed.

Criticising the exposure of corruption in Fifa, whether it was the day before or the day after the selection of the next places to have a world cup was pathetic and an attack on the freedoms that our forefathers (or to be specific, the previous generation of my family) fought to preserve.   Can you imagine a world run by Fifa?    Sadly I can, and it doesn’t help me sleep at night.

3: The FA should root out everyone who in the bid process called Fifa executive members “our friends”. By and large I am not in favour of public execution, but for that crime I will make an exception.   The UK is a hugely flawed democracy but it is still a democracy, and democracy is part of our national institution.  At least the acting chair (or whatever he was) of the FA had the decency to resign.  The rest of the suits should have gone too, and the fact that they have not, speaks volumes.

4:  The FA should in fact reverse its policy, and make itself the centre for exposing the corruption in Fifa.  Of course they can’t because they agreed to give tax-free facilities and services to all Fifa people during the World Cup that we wanted to hold.  Plus their own car lanes (oh how the FA suits would have loved that).

5: We should abandon all attempts to do anything with Fifa – but look at other issues instead. OK, England will still play in the world cup, but let’s just do that and nothing else.  Instead we should be occupying our time investigating why EPL clubs need to recruit overseas players in order to compete at the top level.

I am a 10000% believer in the ideals of the EU, and I think that the freedom of movement of the workforce across the largest economic bloc in the world is one of the most brilliant political/economic developments of my lifetime.  So I have no problem with men from across the EU coming to play football here.

But I am sad that so many English youngsters who could become decent footballers don’t make it, because of the appalling lack of good quality coaches in this country.  (You might remember my analysis of coaching levels, measured against population, number of players, number of clubs etc.   The Guardian did me the honour of taking the story and running it – although sadly without acknowledging me – but that’s how it goes.)

I don’t argue this point to make England into world cup winners, but just because I would like the kids to have better opportunities.

6:  The FA and the EPL and the Football League should get together and support the Uefa initiative on finances in football. The lower leagues have done this – I am not 100% au fait with the way the Conference works, but I believe that to stay in the Conference (the 5th division) the clubs have to be solvent, and running at a profit.  Or something like that.

But the EPL has been against the new financial regulations, saying that the benefactor model has always been around and is part of the “English way”.

Yes it is, and yes, Arsenal dominated the 1930s because from 1913 onwards Henry Norris poured his entire fortune into making Arsenal a super-club.   But that history does not mean we have to follow that route now.

England should become the home of economic good sense in football, not the country that is dragging its feet.

But this is the ancien régime we are talking about here.

The fact that none of the above will happen doesn’t actually matter too much since the FA is bankrupt, financially, morally and creatively (exactly like the government of Louis XVI .  It needs to fill Wembley for game after game, and yet with no world cup, and a rubbish national team, it seems unlikely to be able to do that – and it has no plan B.  The notion that professional qualified coaches might be needed has always been beyond the intellectual grasp of the FA, and the EPL’s stand on financial doping suggests that there are no plans on what to do when England stops being the greatest football show on earth (in league terms) and someone else takes over.  (Come to think of it, it has no plan A either).

What’s more, none of the discussions that have been held about football show a recognition of the collapse in almost all of European football outside Germany.  If the talk is of Spain it is to mention that three quarters of the players in the Spanish league are qualified to play for Spain, and how wonderful Real Mad v Barca was  – as if that makes a blind bit of difference.  Where is the commentary of the fact that Barca failed to pay their players in June, that they don’t fill their stadium for most games, and that something like 80% of their league are teetering on the financial edge – just like the national economy.

Add to this the collapse of Italian football as a spectacle and as an economically sustainable model, plus the player strike in that country, (or come to that even the ref strike in Scotland) and it is clear that this is all something that has already slipped over the edge.

And I reach that conclusion without even touching on the sheer madness of Portugal and Spain, whose economies are so far gone that there isn’t a serious economist on the planet who can see a way out for them, and yet they are spending millions (like England) actually bidding for the world cup from Corrupt Fifa.   Football fans are, (in the eyes of the media), too thick to understand these pesky details.  So best not to mention it.

Meanwhile back in England we actually turn the fiasco of the national football centre at Burton into a celebration – after 20 years of mucking about someone has said we are going to build it.    Personally I wouldn’t bank on it – especially given the losses that Wembley will make in the next few years.

So maybe something good might come out of the world cup fiasco.  The FA will continue to dither, as the ground is swept from beneath them.  Had the FA won the rights to the world cup, they would have survived without any problem.  Now, I really have my doubts.    This might be the start of the end for one of the most moribund self-harming and inept organisations in the history of football (and that’s saying something).  If it is I have no idea what will replace it, but surely it can’t be any worse.

——

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28 comments to England, Fifa, FA, corruption, incompetence. The ancien régime approaches its end.

  • RedGooner

    Nice article.
    I think the BBC done the right thing with the documentary BUT the timing was wrong it could have been shown a day after the result was announced. People like those involved in FIFA should be exposed for what they are corrupt.
    However the BBC in name alone should be ashamed for what the stand for because of the timing of their actions and should by someone be held accountable.

    We have the best stadiums the best infrastructure and so much to offer we should be automatically in the running each time not saying thats all it takes to win it but we should be one of the more prominent countrys.

    However I wouldnt give into extortion and paying FIFA like other countries are doing.

    I think we should get back to winning the World Cup. But to do that we have to fix our own game.We cant let out a gasp “Oh no two footed tackling or Swinging out of eachother in the penalty box” will be clamped down on the world cup or european cup everytime theres a major tourny.

    If we cut out the ryan shawcross tackles force defenders to be more technical put pressure on referees to do the right thing and clean up our game it will become second nature and will benefit the team as a whole.

    We have great players but the way soccer is run at home is like a lunatic assylum. If we win the world cup it would heap pressure on them to give it back to us make us more attractive.

    AW is the only one pushing for all these things and he is french I mean come on.

  • Well there is another thing which, in long terms, could bring WC in to England (in meaning of organization). First you have to start some civil war which will end with manslaughter. Than you have to allow UN to dictate how country will be organized. After while you have to apply for organizing WC, and explain it as attempt to show to world that understanding and cooperation is possible even after war. That will instantly mean success.

  • Byo

    To highlight one of the issues in your article:
    Incessantly, one hears the argument of some possible talents in England not getting a chance to play, and clubs like The Arsenal are to blame. Even though other clubs like Chelsea, and ManU have ‘foreign” players on their rosters too.

    If England is so full of talents, why are they not getting a chance at mid-table EPL teams like Blackburn, Wolves or WestHam? Is it really the responsibility of EPL clubs to produce players for the national team? Why do countries like Germany, The Netherlands and Spain not have the same problems?
    The short-comings of the Lampards, for example, gets exposed once he puts on the England shirt(he does not have the Essiens and Obis on his sides)

    Maybe, The FA has to look deeper into the short-comings of British football(at the youth levels) rather than xenophobia. I remember reading an article a while back that players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta would never have made it beyond boys’ club level in England. This actually confirms my limited observation in England about youth football(where 10-year olds play on a full-sized pitch; lunge into tackles; launch long balls and chase it incessantly; etc), as compared to youth football in S.America, the continent, or Africa where individual skills are nurtured.
    A quick look at the last WC reveals where all the flair players honed their skills! My little contribution is based on my love for good football and my extensive travels.

  • MoMONEY

    Look FIFA is corrupt but England should stop looking to blame others. The two countries with oil economies in these times of financial uncertainty were chosen. Hardly groundbreaking stuff… Here is an interesting take on it from someone who has some experience:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/mobile/football/9258612.stm

  • simon bailey

    Great piece Tony. I have to admit that I have been waiting for you to address this issue since Blatter pulled Russia from his magic envelope.

    There are so many ‘what-ifs’ that it’s hard to know what England would have done if they had won the bid. Would our press have zipped up for 8 years? I don’t think so. Would the FA have discussed the deeper implications of FIFA’s corruption? Would the Chairman have resigned? Would we have given them their car lanes and tax incentives?

    I think that had England won the bid, they would have acquiesced, and gone about the business of costing the UK taxpayers several millions while private organisations and big business raked in the profits.

    Your mention of strikes earlier in your piece was interesting. If England could get together with Spain, USA, Holland etc and withdrawn their participation in all international competitions, along with the broadcasters of those nations, it would be a good start. I wouldn’t threaten FIFA with it, I would just do it, and start a new organisation in competition with FIFA. An organisation that is truly transparent and corruption free.

    Ever sice Triesman was setup by a national paper months ago, I knew that we weren’t going to be bringing football home. The Sunday times and Panorama were just the icing on the cake. There is no way that a bunch of corrupt people are going to be giving the competition to a country with a notoriosly free press, just so they can be put under the spotlight for the next 8 years.

    Personally, I thought the Panorama program was a bit weak. I was hoping that they had uncovered some new info about recent corruption, instead they based the program on paperwork that was more than 10 years old.

    I know that it is too much to ask that our politicians actually do something about regulating football properly, but perhaps after the massive waste of money and huge loss of face for our PM and future King, maybe they will be spurred into action. More than likely, they will administer a sticking plaster where a heart/lung transplant is what is really needed.

  • Paul C.

    MoMoney – but that argument goes to whole root of the issue. Were Russia and Qatar chosen simply because of financial issues? If so, who holds the next World Cups? Saudi Arabia? Then UAE? Then Iraq (which should have recovered by 2034)?

    Surely the WC is supposed to be a celebration of football. A celebration of a country. A celebration for the fans. It shouldnt just be about which country can bring the most petro-dollars to the table.

  • Mandy Dodd

    We now know England never stood a chance. We cannot fully extricate ourselves from FIFA but we can cut a lot of ties.
    FIFA is corrupt and our bidding team were not the best
    Lets have as little to do with the current FIFA as is possible. No more brown nosing around those clowns.
    I think things will change when the traditional powers in football realise that in the future, FIFA will give a world cup to the Peoples republic of Narnia before England, France Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, USA, Oz and maybe even Argentina.
    In the meantime, maybe not the point of this article – but to hell with international football – we have Arsenal!

  • Andrei

    @Mandy Dodd: Belgium, Portugal, USA and Oz are traditional powers in football? And maybe even Argentina?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Andrei – considerably more so than Quatar, and others who will follow

  • Getty

    Tony as much as I like your comments and articles in various matters, I disagree to some of your over reaction. I know you have been pointing out the corruption of FIFA for awhile, but it’s like the UN. A lot of countries praise the UN when a resolution they support passes and cry bloody murder when it doesn’t, or excersice their vito power out right. The UN is nothing more than the member states so is FIFA. I admit there is no god given vito power in FIFA for the self appointed permenant members or traditional footballing countries. None of the decisions coming out of these organization is objective for obvious reasons. There are a lot of opposing interests, from memember states, with variing agendas. There is a lot of politics involved. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning bribing officials and all that corruption that exists in EVERY society, but FIFA has a very important role in world football. You know how your own local coucil works, right? They don’t necessarly pass things in the best interest of the public, but for the highest bidder. By the way the guy who did the dirty work behind the scenes for Qatar’s bid is an English man who had brought the olympics to England.

    You all complain about how much money is spent in football, but what you offered is more money. That’s why you called it a very good deal in terms of economics for FIFA, right? There are other football loving regions in the world other than Western Europe with a lot of cash to boot. For South Africa it was a coming out party after all the negative press, yes you know it, from the English media. Media certainly has a role to play in society, but the knee jerk reaction to everything they perceive different than what they know before is really emmbarassing. It’s very interesting to see it from non English stand point.

    As much as a lot of people in Englad dread FIFA, I’m so astonished by the reaction to their rejected bid. If you ask me, England should concentrate on taking a vaible team to the World Cup, but and again you don’t really care for WC. But that will be a start and get off your high horses about how upstanding everyone is, I believe Wikileaks has exposed some that.

  • Andrei

    @Mandy Dodd “…considerably more so than Quatar, and others who will follow” How do you know? New global powers are emerging and the vote is a reflection of this trend. Sooner or later football will have to follow and FIFA is anticipating this move. USA hosting WC 94 was in a way as shocking selection as Qatar. And just 16 years (actually 24 since the selection) later the US is a traditional football power in your book. Let’s see what football in Middle East will look like in 16 – 24 years.

    Who are others to follow? How about China (#1 world power by that time)? Or Turkey? Or Indonesia? Both are likely to surpass UK in GDP in 16-24 years. And who knows where European Union will end up in the same timeframe? Or the US…

  • MoMoney

    @Paul C.
    I see your point and I agree to an extent. But I do not see these two choices as ones that will ruin this celebration. Its is a celebration of the world, I think these choices do a good job in letting us see two new places and two new football cultures. And before you say it, I know Qatar doesnt have much of a football culture, but the Middle East as a whole does, and I expect it to be on show in that world cup…

    As for Saudi/UAE/Iraq. One World Cup in the middle east in 100+ years is hardly the end of the world or the capitulation to oil money. I was merely pointing out that the argument that “England was a safer choice” is perhaps not true if consider the financial issues and money that will be available to both countries in 8-12 years…

  • Shard

    @ getty

    That is very well put. I completely agree. It isn’t enough to say FIFA is useless and corrupt (though both are true at times). The fact is that they do an important job. All administrators do get a hard time across all sports, but the function they perform, whether it be mixed with lining their own pockets, is important.

    I find this talk of breaking away from FIFA very amusing. Do people really think anyone will follow England out? The only reason they’ll do it is if they have something to gain directly (again-money). Any rival organisation, if it becomes equally large will most likely become equally open to corruption. As Tony says, it’s not like the FA is any better. For the rest, England didn’t participate in any world cup before 1950. I don’t think the world missed them. It would be entirely England’s loss if they react by pulling out, and indeed would reflect poorly on it.

  • Shard

    @ Andrei

    Completely true regarding USA94. It was a suprise.But it did have a huge impact. (Also meant Dennis refused to fly again though)I don’t think a perceived lack of history should really be used as an accusation. How will its history build up anyway if it stays away from the mainstream. I don’t think Qatar was the best choice personally, but it deserves a chance to prove itself.

  • Mark Mywords

    Who actually cares about the World Cup? The last one was the bore of the century. I can’t remember seeing one game that stood out or one team that really grabbed my imagination. Maybe Spain (just). The fact that an average team of kickers (Holland) got in the final tells it all. The fact is that the vast majority of fans want to follow their clubs, and international football is seen as an unnecessary intrusion. If I never saw England play again, it wouldn’t break my heart. I should point out that Wenger has often said that club football is the way forward. With that in mind, who gives a fick about FUFA? Bit by bit the countries that have the best domestic leagues, will gravitate away from them. What exactly do they offer?

  • Richard B

    Did it not used to be the casr that the WC alternated between Europe and South America – until FIFA started this policy of giving it to someone in order to help ‘develop the game’ in their country? So why not formalise that scheme by alternating between established football countries and development counties?

  • Rhys Jaggar

    ‘Can you imagine a world run by Fifa? Sadly I can, and it doesn’t help me sleep at night.’

    A rigorous analysis of the NHS wouldn’t help you sleep at night either, mate.

    One Regius Professor is a fully blown spy, with the capability to spy on all that you do in your own house.

    Trust me.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    ‘I am a 10000% believer in the ideals of the EU’

    And what about the practicalities?

    Because the reality is that the UK thinks the EU rules are there to be implemented whereas its major competitors think they are there to be ignored…..

  • Rhys Jaggar

    ‘the FA is bankrupt, financially, morally and creatively (exactly like the government of Louis XVI . It needs to fill Wembley for game after game, and yet with no world cup, and a rubbish national team, it seems unlikely to be able to do that – and it has no plan B.’

    Well, plan B might start as follows:

    1. Decide what to do with Wembley Stadium: either rent it out to a major tenant (which would only likely be Chelsea, QPR or Spurs, assuming Arsenal are now wedded to the Emirates) in football or sell it to the NFL. Then take internationals on the road again as the Friday/Tuesday rigmarole currently discriminates against all but London and the South East. That reduces FA debt, allows you to use Old Trafford, Wembley, the Olympic Stadium, the Emirates etc etc to generate reasonable revenues without any debt to cover off.
    2. Set out rigorous due diligence procedures for ‘fit and proper owners’.
    3. Instigate new rules which do not allow clubs to be purchased with more than a specific percentage of debt (as low as possible) and require all clubs to draw up constitutions which fit within a broad range of acceptability, that range being determined by the FA in concert with all stakeholders in the game, especially the fans.
    4. Revolutionise the role of agents in the game, instigating centralised rules for transfers.
    5. Require all associated members to pay tax in this country.
    6. Set up a partnership scheme with all members of the Football League to create a seamless career path for coaches. Do likewise with lower league clubs for junior coaches. Integrate schools and LEAs/their successors into that process.
    7. Introduce rules which require 18-22 year old professionals to be played a minimum of 20 times a season. And a maximum of 40 unless there are special circumstances. To reduce injuries but to maximise the opportunities for players to gain sufficient experience at an appropriate level to be hardened professionals by the age of 22.
    8. Eliminate the purchasing of young Championship stars to sit on EPL benches. Do this by making EPL clubs pay a surcharge each season the player sits on the bench. i.e. if he’s bought and plays less than 10 times a season, why did you buy him? The reason is to stop others buying them. The FA should be ruthless in eliminating that by hitting clubs in the pocket…….
    9. Complete a rigorous financial audit of the past 15 years to determine which nationalities balance of payments is best from the EPL. Publish the results and embrace all the outrage that will undoubtedly ensue. Ride the wave of indignation to fundamentally alter the rigging of English football in our ‘idealistic’ EU…….
    10. Introduce an automatic relegation of 4 divisions for any team going into administration, a full financial audit of those which do and ban for life any Directors which bled a club dry to drive it into administration. Remove the football creditors rule and introduce a reverse creditors rule i.e. the police, the St Johns etc are now the senior creditors and members of the football family come second with Directors coming last. Make it a condition of purchase that the debts owed to taxpayer funded bodies i.e. the police and the St Johns’ Ambulance are carried in full if their debts cannot be fully paid immediately in the administration ‘haircut’.
    11. Carry out a ruthless, brutal and wide-ranging audit of match fixing in English football. Publish the results in unexpurgated detail, with absolutely no attention to the reputations of managers, players, agents, BBC pundits or Sky analysts. Investigate links between major gambling organisations and officials/players/managers in terms of the placing of bets ‘in play’ and expose the regular breaches of the spirit of sport which occur in that regard. Require all EPL clubs to pay a £5m contribution to fund a large, unimpeachable and inviolable division to sweep this canker out of English football.

    Well, I wonder who would get elected on that ticket, eh, Mr Attwood????

  • Paul C.

    MoMoney – Oh, I didnt expect England top win. I love it that England lost. I think Russia was a brilliant choice. Wonderful.

    But Qatar? A country of 1.7m people? WHAT?!?!?!?!?!

  • MoMONEY

    I just think Qatar will rep the entire middle east and not just Qatar. So the 1.7 million doesn’t hold up as an important issue. Just my opinion of course. We will see how it goes

  • Paul C.

    I’ve heard that argument and it doesnt hold in my opinion. I’ve lived in the middle east and know the class and geographical divisions that exist there. Rich Arabs will be able to travel to Qatar but the average Arab will not.

    I just cannot imagine what it will be like for fans attending that WC. What will they do? The organizers say they will arrange “activity tents” but can you really do that for a month? In Russia people will be able to get out and explore the cities and country as a whole. In South Africa the options are endless, that is a fabulous country. In Germany obviously there are endless options (as well as stopovers in Amsterdam or Switzerland etc etc). In Japan/South Korea there was a wealth of history and culture. In France the situation was the same as Germany. In USA, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Argentina that obviously is true. What will people do in Qatar? You cannot get entry visas to Saudi so you are stuck there. In 150 degree heat and oppresive humidity. In a culture that doesnt take kindly to skimpy clothing and beach culture. In one city. I just dont know that it will be that fun for fans.

    I hope I am wrong.

  • jazbo

    So we lost the bid, big deal.. now let’s move on and put the toys back in the pram.
    That is, unless you realy thought that by Jeting in the prime minister, the prince and of course David Beckham at the last moment to put pressure on FIFA to give the competion to England was gonna work!!!, come on get real, it was never going to work.

  • Shard

    I just saw the videos of both the Russian and the English bids on youtube. I must say, after watching it that England losing the bid was no suprise. Their own video essentially suggested that they had nothing new to offer. Just something vague about spending money on global expansion. Apart from that there were people wearing premier league clubs jerseys. What does that have to do with the world cup? How will it coming to England give it a unique flavour? I think Russia’s was better. It gave a feel of what they’ll bring to it.

    Regarding Qatar I think I am not convinced it was the right thing but I’m willing to keep an open mind. 12 years is a long time anyway

  • MoMoney

    Yes I guess these are all good points. It will be interesting to see how free time will be spent. Im originally from Egypt and I WISH we could host it. The Middle East needs it, but unfortunately the only realistic option had to be one of these gulf states… We will see

  • Paul C.

    MoMoney – I think Egypt would be a great place for a WC. You know what would be even better (but will never happen in a billion and one years)? Egypt and Israel co-hosting!!!!! What an amazing cultural WC that would be!!!! And how amazing might that be for arab-israeli relations?

  • Steve

    It made me so proud as a Englishman to watch my Prince, Prime Minister and England Captain beg like tramps for scraps.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Dear Mr Attwood

    I regret to inform you that your assertions that Barca is going bust are wide of the mark due to the biggest bung in World Cup history being announced today.

    As you are such a wanker about Barca, we won’t supply you with more than a weblink, so here it is:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/9276343.stm

    You see: we ditched our UNESCO principles to get into bed with Islam. Promoted by our long-term foe, Senor Zidane of the unspeakably abominable vanquished of el Clasico…….

    Long Live Senor Llonar!! Long Live Herr Blatter!! Long live globalisation!! Long live your measly sponsorship deal with Emirates!!

    Yours Sincerely

    Sandro Rosell
    el Presidente
    FC Barcelona

    Mes que en Club……