Football is about to change if the King’s speech promises become law … or maybe not




By Tony Attwood

The King’s Speech (in which the UK monarch sets out his government’s plans for legislation in the coming session of Parliament), is in reality a propaganda speech written by the government telling citizens of the Kingdom what bills they might bring forward if they get round to it and don’t call an election instead). 

And it is of interest here because this time it included the notion that there will be a football regulator put in place in England.  (I am not too sure if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also get one each, or whether one person is going to rule the whole of the UK, or indeed if the government didn’t realise that football in the United Kingdom is in fact a de-regulated area of work.  But we shall see… perhaps.)

Anyway, although we don’t know the geographical area of the regulator’s coverage, we do know that he/she will “have powers to monitor and enforce compliance with requirements in financial regulation; corporate governance; club ownership (owners and directors’ tests); fan engagement and club heritage protection; and approved competitions”.

That “approved competitions” bit is quite interesting since FIFA does not allow governments to interfere in football at all, since Fifa likes to see itself as an all-powerful all-encompassing country in its own right.  So the UK or the England devolved government approving competitions would be against Fifa rulings.

Of course, the one thing this does show is that the headline is a sop to the public who think “something must be done” without giving us a clue what, and without any sign that the government has actually thought any of this through.  But the fact is that we most certainly do need a regulator because football has repeatedly shown itself to be quite incapable of regulating itself.

The most obvious examples of why football needs a regulator come through the child sex abuse cases, the Bradford stadium fire, and the discovery that we have made that duplicate records of children’s medical history are not being kept by clubs. 

In this latter case, if a child gets injured and a parent makes a complaint, the first thing that is needed is for details of any injuries that the child has had to be examined by an outside specialist who can make a judgement on whether the club has been negligent or not.

But all the club has to do at present is to say that the club’s medical records are “missing” and that is that.  The club can wheel out a few experts who will say, “I remember the boy, but don’t recall any injury problems” and the judge will normally believe those people rather than the parent.   But even if not, the cost of such a case which would probably take a week in the court, would be so great, no parent could ever risk going to court and potentially losing on the grounds that the records are missing.

Research by the FA in 2015 (“Football Talent Spotting: Are Clubs Getting It Wrong with Kids?”), the showed that under one-half of one percent (ie under one in 200) of the players aged under nine who are signed up by professional teams ever get just one game with a professional first team sometime in their life.

This number seems incredibly high, and of itself it gives us the insight that something other than footballing ability is making it tough for them to continue.   One reason could be the cost of doing the training – the youngsters have to turn up at a particular training ground night after night for training – and that suggests there being someone around who could drive the child to and fro.

OK, that’s not the problem of football, but just as we don’t know how many children have difficulty in this regard, what we also don’t know is how many children are not supervised well enough and overseen from a medical point of view, and as a result get an injury that kicks them out of the game.

Now that might seem completely ludicrous; surely the clubs are not going to allow brilliantly talented youngsters to slip by the wayside because of a lack of medical facilities, are they?  Well, actually yes.  For the simple reason that the clubs have many, many more young trainees than they need.  So their view is, why should we bother with any medical support for children who quite possibly were not quite good enough anyway?

As a result the children get the minimum medical care and find football is not all it might be.  First, their dream is shattered since they don’t get to be professional players.  But second, they can be left from a very early age with a nasty injury that afflicts them for life.   As for the club, nothing happens, because they just say, “we lost the medical records.”


One Reply to “Football is about to change if the King’s speech promises become law … or maybe not”

  1. Does anyone know if Arsenal keep medical history records ? If so then that’s good reason to be proud of our club . If not, then could this be brought to their attention if it hasn’t already happened ?

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