Dominic Sanchez Cabello
Fresh after the installing of a new F.A. chief, the debate about English football surfaced. And though I appreciate that it is a reasonable thing to debate, the debate was launched in a shabby and rushed way. Like the seal that surfaces for air and instantly submerges again, the debate emerged, was debated in brief, promptly leaving for more ‘pressing’ matters: namely a “Gritty Gerrard-performance in Kiev”, or Hodgson’s men displaying a “never say die attitude” or that “Kyle Walker isn’t afraid of Ukraine” and other drollery…
Greg Dyke identified an area that can’t be changed quickly and offered a solution that was impossible to implement anyway. Which is why it was easier for him to slink off into the deep. To stay in the fresh air would be to keep the debate moving, to propose a long-term plan, maybe even to say something productive. It would also take money and foresight… so again I ask, why speak of quotas that’ll never happen in rhetoric that’ll never be questioned?
Creating a quota system in the hope of winning an international tournament would be like creating a tax that protects British Business in the hope that these businesses would out-compete the rest of the world. Imagine the government offered tax breaks when purchasing a Rover. Yes, more people would be driving Rovers, but in the long term would it make Rover a better company? Would the unfair advantage they had over the competitors cause them to improve their methods, or to slacken them? Sales may rise domestically, but how would they do elsewhere, in freer markets? In the same way, how would a team of players aided via a bureaucratic advantage fare against teams assembled on merit?
All it would really do is dissuade you from buying foreign. The result: people would have average cars, the Premier League would have average players, Rover would remain a wretched company and our national team would still be crap.
That analogy has its faults: because as we know car manufacturers can produce on an industrial scale. Footballers can’t be produced on demand, even despite Spain/Belgium’s best efforts. So then what? Perhaps the quality and quantity of British footballers produced doesn’t rise to suit the demands of this quota… prices become even more inflated and the next thing you know, you’ve blown 30 million on James Milner.
Does the Spanish or German league use a quota system to protect their own? No, they don’t need to; they’ve created a situation where the players they produce are good enough not to need shielding from foreign imports.
Around a decade ago, following a poor showing at the Euros, the German FA and Bundesliga insisted that every club invest in a modern academy. To do this, a percentage of their television rights had to be used improving their youth system. The logic was that, instead of squandering money swelling the pockets of agents and players, the money could be used more holistically, cultivating local talent, whilst also benefiting the wider community. Schalke may have loathed having to set aside funds refurbishing their youth system at the time, but when Julian Draxler appeared from it – they’d soon rejoice that they did. So would the German F.A. and Bundesliga for that matter.
At present, the two top German leagues spend 75million Euros a year on their academies. Not an outlandish sum in the context and easily manageable for a league as rich as the EPL. Especially considering that a few months ago the Premier League flogged its television rights for £3 billion – nearly double the previous deal.
Of this £3 billion:
- 50% will be equally divided between clubs,
- 25% is given on merit
- 25% is given according to how many times a club is shown on T.V. at their home stadium
Now call me a dreamer, but somewhere in that sum of money and its surrounding percentages, there must be funds that can be put aside to improve youth football in Britain. Surely it would be merely a case of the Premier League and the F.A. getting together for a chat?
As of this season, clubs relegated from the Premier league will receive £60m over 4 years in Parachute Payments. Naturally each club will spend it differently, but in general it’ll be used massaging a bulky wage bill in a lower league. I can think of few things that are as pointless – even burning money gives light and warmth. In effect that money is rewarding failure and cushioning it from a heavy fall. It is giving clubs that have pursued an unsustainable end a bit more time to continue doing just that. A bit like giving the gambler a final wad of cash to avenge his losses.
If relegated clubs still received those payments, but on the condition they spent it improving their infrastructure, it would be far more effective in the long term than if it was squandered paying Gary Caldwell premier league wages to play against Yeovil. It could be used to entice competent coaches, to finance football projects in and around Wigan. Perhaps even improve the pitch at the D.W!
Of course the benefits wouldn’t be instant, indeed they may go completely unseen for years, but what if Wigan became better at football? Or an increase in sports facilities made the general population healthier and happier? Or the wealth that could have been lost to the pockets of agents and players, stayed in Wigan and created a wealthier city all round? If those things are too tenuous, then there is always that Wigan could return to the Premier League with a more viable plan for survival – a productive academy and a pitch that won’t desert them by November.
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