Reforming English football: Greg Dyke wants your money

By Tony Attwood

Who would you trust the most out of this group when it comes to providing facilities for children’s football and for the amateur adult game?

  • The Football Association
  • Local Councils
  • Private contractors who are paid by local councils to run sports provision.
  • The rest of us (because we are all in the Big Society, and so it is our responsibility as the Prime Minister has told us).

If you are the slightest bit like me, the answer is “none of them, not once inch”.  The FA is so inept and useless that even Sports England withdrew all its funding in the light of its gross incompetence and inability to make a difference.

The local councils are political bodies, and some of them really do have people on board who would like to make a difference rather than bathe in the glory of being called a councillor, but their funding has been ripped to shreds by a rapacious government who are the inheritors of the “big bang” in the city of London which gave bankers the freedom to steal our money and spend it in their private casinos.

And since when have private contractors who bid for public funds had the public good in mind?  Just talk to the hospital trusts who are now borrowing money from the banks to pay off the private contractors who bought the right to make money out of hospitals.

Indeed since when do private contractors think?  This week I came across one borough where the contractors dutifully painted the grass with the pitch markings.  Two weeks later they cut the grass as per their contract.  The markings vanished.  They didn’t replace them because it wasn’t in the contract.  A pitch with no markings.

So what chance do children who want to learn the game or adults who want to play as a way of staying fit and enjoying themselves, have of finding a pitch?

About minus ten on a scale of one to five.

The FA lay down laws about the size of pitches that youngsters should play on, but there are few such pitches.  The FA want a respect zone to keep parents five yards back from the pitch so they don’t assault the ref and restrict their pushing and shoving to the parents of the opposition.  But there is not even a facility to install that in most cases.

Football at these lower levels is utterly dependent on the goodwill and dedication of people who find supporting grass roots football worth doing.  They exist outside of all national bodies, and don’t own their own pitches so they can’t improve the quality of the ground, let alone put in artificial pitches.  County level football doesn’t want to know.

It is into this desperate arena of neglect for children’s football in particular, that the FA steps with its latest whizzo scheme.  OK, they say, we lost all the Sports England funding because of gross incompetence, but it wasn’t our fault, it rained.

In fact it didn’t – in the period that Sports England measured the FA’s performance it didn’t rain – but don’t let stop the national press running the excuse without even checking the weather charts.

Now the FA wants to invest more money, building 150 “football hubs” across England to transform football.  Greg Dyke, says it will deliver a “radical new approach” to grassroots football that would reverse years of neglect of waterlogged council facilities by investing £230m in new 3G pitches and overhauling its approach to youth coaching.”

No word about the lost Sports England funding then.  Just give us more money.

The FA want to build 600 new all weather 3G pitches, focused on 30 of the country’s biggest cities, over six years.

And who will pay for this now that the FA is utterly weighed under with debt from Wembley and can’t get state aid through Sports England because… well you know.

“In the end it’s about money and we don’t control the bulk of money in football,  It’s going to take some hard choices,” said Dyke.

Which is Dykespeak for “we don’t have it and we don’t know where it is, but I’m going to look behind the sofa.”

The Football Foundation gets £12m a year each from the FA and the Premier League and £10m from the government.  Dykeland needs £50m just for starters. They want others to pay and laughably there has even been talk of the FA – the FA!!! – asking the local councils for money.  Local councils which are going round turning off street lights (which is the perfect way to increase street crime) because they can’t afford to keep them on.

Dyke wants local authorities to make a one-off capital investment in the new pitches and then hand over the running of them to the FA.

Shall I say that again?

No for health and safety reasons I’d better not.

So here we have a plan from a grossly indebted organisation – in debt because of its own decision to build its own monument in Wembley when there were plenty of grounds that could have been used instead.  A plan with no funding.

Helen Grant told Greg where to go with his plans.  She’s sports minister and she said, “I am keen to see what more we can do to help further improve the nation’s facility stock, putting 3G pitches in places that need them most, and I am continuing discussions with the football authorities on this front.”

Translated that means, if there are political points to be scored from supporting this, I will do it, but don’t expect money.

English football needs reform from the bottom up – but instead of putting people in charge of reforming the game who can do it we have in charge an organisation so grossly incompetent it can’t even keep money it is freely given, and which runs up insane bills on an unwanted and unnecessary HQ.

I’ll continue my review of the catastrophe that is English football in the near future.

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23 Replies to “Reforming English football: Greg Dyke wants your money”

  1. Would it not be possible to put a ‘stamp duty’ tax on all transfers of none English players? That way the clubs who spend the cash outside the UK would be contributing to fund the grassroots of English football

  2. Excellent write up Tony!!

    October 11, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Whilst that is a very good idea; I believe that the problem WONT go away as the roots are deep (in Government,Local Councils,FA and whoever else is labeled ‘authority’)…since corruption and fund-vaccuming within these ‘authorities’ will vaporize any new funding that is channeled in there – with ZERO to show for it in the end.

  3. @ Tony

    Sports England have not withdrawn all funding. The sum withdrawn is £1.6 million out of the £30 million so over, I think a 5 year period to 2017 Sports England will still allocate so £28 million

    A very simple question but what is considered to be “Grass Root”

    The real problem is that far too much money goes into the lower levels of the FL and indeed the higher levels of non league.

    For instance in the Southern League ( three levels below FL Div 2) I read last week that certain clubs are having to budget in excess of £15k for coach travel alone. When the total annual gate receipts after VAT & match expenses for many clubs at that level don’t even total that sum.

    So when a club playing & winning in the second qualifying round of the FA today get their £4.5 k in prize money its unlikely that anything will find its way into the clubs youth teams etc for it will be gobbled up in basic running costs.

    I am quite happy that the FA do indeed distribute money but a simple question that I cant resolve in my own mind is why say a PL team who wins their first game in the competition will get £37k whereas a non league team can get as little as £1500.

    In one a simple step by say paying £12500 to each team that appears in a FA cup tie at the money from this one tournament would give a massive boost to non league but with this massive boost would/ could come with strings by only allowing say 50% to spent on running costs and the balance to be spent on infrastructure.

  4. English football has been screaming silently for reformation ever since Daddy Warbucks rolled into Chelski. The problem is, Dyke and cronies like him act just like the Government – they squeeze the already impoverished until there is nothing left to squeeze. Want funding? Start hitting Citeh, Chelski et al who spend recklessly even though they have massive internal debts. The demise of football across the globe lies in the hands of these so-called giants of football whose greed has eroded away at the game right down to grass roots level. Until there is a cap on spending and a re-investment where it is critically needed, football will continue to bleed internally.

  5. The Fisherman and the Tourist

    A boat docked in a tiny seaside village. An American tourist complimented the local fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

    “Not very long,” answered the fisherman.

    “But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American. The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

    The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

    “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, and sing a few songs… I have a full life.”

    The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

    “And after that?” asked the fisherman.

    “With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

    Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to the city, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

    “How long would that take?” asked the fisherman.

    “Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.

    “And after that?”

    “Afterwards? Well my Friend, That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

    “Millions? Really? And after that?” said the fisherman.

    “After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings doing what you like and enjoying your friends.”

  6. I have always thought that the main problem with English football is organisation. Outside of the top level there is really no organised path for training and progression. Football is not really encouraged in schools – instead there are rather stupid PE lessons wasting time on having kids climb ropes et al. At college and university level there is very little organisation at all. Take a look at the NFL as an example – national organisation and high exposure… and those college kids know that success at that level is their ticket into the pro leagues. In England you have to be lucky as well as talented…and of course you need to know the right people. Give kids clarity on progression, put the right coaching in place and have properly organised leagues at local level up to college, at regional level up to university and national level at university. Pit professional coaches into schools, colleges and university’s and create proper programmes taking part in proper leagues.

    What we have today is quite frankly ridiculous and so much talent just falls by the wayside. The FA talk about B teams but they can’t even organise a premier league reserve completion properly… many teams don’t even take part, yet we are talking about B teams????

    The truth is the whole administration of football is lazy and bloated on cash concentrated on the PL only. They don’t care about anything else, just the money train. Its really quite disgusting and its not going to change any time soon.

  7. Sadly, the uk has lost some of ots position in the world so to make up for it, has made itself a slave to some of the most rampant predatorial breeds of capitalism going. If you have the money up front….or,some,times, even if you don’t, you can buy into anything….and anything goes here….with our light touch regulation. The FA hasn’t the power….or the will to confront this. There are other western capitalist countries who are able to have the right people running things and nurture their own sport….Germany for one. Not saying we are not successful, as the lottery funded Olympic athletes have shown, but football is sadly far too short termist in this country.
    If you want football here to recover….in terms of developing our own youngsters in a nurturing environment, I would put Wenger, Bob Wilson….with perhaps honourable mentions for Hoddle and Brooking in charge of the whole lot and give them power. Roy keane may even have some interesting ideas…..he certainly knows enough about corruption in our game having benefitted from it much of his career.

  8. Once again the FA’s answer is to throw money at the “problem”… never mind that what use are brand spanking new pitches if all we are using them for is to propogate antequated dinosaur English tactics that produce athletes with no technique?

    Do Brazil have tons of gleaming pitches? I doubt it. WE need people, with the right attitude and well trained coaches to ENCOURAGE kids to enjoy playing football, not uber competitive team matches that only endorse win at all costs mentalities and jettison talented but not deemed big and strong enough kids with potential.

    With a twat like Dyke in control, nothing will change, for the better any way.

  9. Mandy, I agreed with all that apart from giving any type of role to Brooking! His tenure wFA technical director, or whatever it was, was completely pointless!

    What did he actually do?

  10. Love the translation of Helen Grant’s reply.

    Here we have another big part of the problem. PC. People do not and can not say exactly what they mean, especially those in so called “power” positions.

    Then we wonder at the confusion that results from this.

  11. Dexter, in fairness to Brooking, he was always advocating better coaching, better facilities, different methods of playing, grass roots development but his problem, he had no power to do anything. Yes, you could argue he said a lot of fine things and did very little….some sort of FA equivalent of Obama, if you will, but he was up against change resistant time servers in the FA , Charles Hughes indoctrinated dinosaurs like Howard Wilkinson,as well as the Premier League. Think Brooking just got ground down, but others may not judge him so kindly…..maybe rightly so, who knows?
    You are correct he did not do much, and is perhaps tainted accordingly, but like Hoddle, still think he has a lot to offer the game.
    Glen Hoddle has his faults, but is just about the only person I know of in this country sacked over religious beliefs!

  12. I remember a couple of years ago I walked past my local school. There was a game on so I stopped and watched for a while. There was one kid head and shoulders above teh rest technically wise but the teacher/coach had stuck him at right back and shouted at him every time he crossed the halfway line.

    for me, therein lies the problem.

    Also, forget coaching and organised games, name me the last street baller you can remember in the big league. For me, Gazza.

  13. An example of good intentions gone awry.

    The FA have now imposed small sided football on children. They progress from 5 a side, to 7, to 9 to 11 (at U13). A good idea, but not so well delivered in practice.

    The FA message gets through to the County FAs. This then gets passed to the Leagues. Then to the clubs. The pitch requirements then get passed to the Local Councils and Contractors.

    What this means is that there is erratic implementation. So far this season my son – U13, first time at 11 a side – has played on pitches ranging from 80 x 50 yds to 105 x 60. Or 4,000 square yards to 6,300. Quite a significant difference! The goals have ranged from 7′ x 16′ to 8′ x 24′ (full size). Or with a face area ranging from 112 sq feet to 192 sq ft! (Apologies for the imperial measures to those unfamiliar). Tough on 12 year old goalkeepers playing in a full size goal…

    The other problem is that every 2 years the squad size needs to increase. This then means that all the squads are disrupted which damages the social aspect of playing – which is important to the children. Smaller clubs with just one team in a year group may be forced to fold.

    Finally, primary schools play 7 a side and secondary schools play 11 a side. So children play different formats at the same time dependent on whether they are playing for their school or their club!


  14. That’s bizzare Pete. What was wrong with the old method? A smaller pitch for all primary school children, and a larger one for all high school children, and eleven a side all the time? I don’t understand what good going from 5 a side upwards will achieve. It all seems like fiddling on the Titanic. Superficial changes so that they look like thy’re doing something without really addressing the problem.

    Anyway, in my opinion, the national team has enough talent to do much better than it does. So why doesn’t it? Of course there’s the dinosaurs that manage the England side, buy also the players get big-headed, because if any English player has a smidgeon of talent, PL clubs pay them massive salaries. That’t the real reason why so few British players play abroad, no one in Europe will pay them what they get pay in England for their mediocre talent. How many English teenagers are earning 50k, 100k? They’re too big for their boots, and that arrogance carries through to the national team.

    And the other problem is coaching at the junior levels. Like everyone has said, far too much emphasis is placed on ‘getting stuck in’, and not enough on technical ability. But the problem is so wide-spread and deep rooted amongst the English, that how do you start to change it? Bring in Europeans? Perish the thought!

  15. I don’t know where to begin with this one Quincy. Two things summarise my jist perhaps.

    Fistly, a Dutch teacher who had worked at the Ajax Academy when the great players were there as juniors, came with me on a series of educational visits. Naturally, he looked closely at the sports programmes. He was appalled at the way we approached football- inside school and out. One series of questions he asked to a ‘Kes’ lookalike PE teacher was wonderful. The first was – 22 people chasing around on a pitch as big as Wembley- you have no shortage of grass, but only one ball? Then- how many touches per minute does the average boy get in sessions like this? Ajax would want at least 25- how could you improve your sessions to achieve that? And so he went on.

    Secondly, Jack Charlton- yes the very same- said 30 years ago that no improvement in the basic skills of children will come unless we throw out what we are doing and start doing what the best footballing nations have always done. This is summarised as smaller, softer balls in small-sided pracice exercises using grids of various sizes. Presumably, he knew that is exacltly how Matthews, Finney, Bobby, Bestie as well as Maradona, Pele and Cryuff developed their amazing talents.

    Let’s face it- anything is better than the ‘kick it down there you big sft herbert’ method.

  16. There is tremendous money in the Game, but way too much of it goes to corruption, inefficiency, questionable political shenanigans, a few Clubs and a few players, agents, taxes etc. FIFA is the chief bloodsucker among countless other international and national organizations that ¨profit¨from the game. Here are a few proposals that might help amateur Football in the UK:

    1)Tax agents, either here or overseas, through a special collection of 5% of their total annual revenues and provide onlyamateur Clubs with that financial support provided they develop their coaches and provide a few candidates for referee training.
    2)Offer about 2% funds from total gambling,lottery and other gaming ventures that would be earmarked for amateur Football.
    3)Add a special 1% tax on professional players’ salaries in the EPL which would be given to amateur Clubs for operating and facilities purposes.
    4)Organize concerts for teenagers and young adults where 50% or more of the profits after expenses and salaries would go to amateur Football.
    5)Demand that FIFA set aside at least 10% of the tournament monies they make from the WC and so on for amateur Football worldwide. the same could be required of EUFA.
    6)Setup sports clubs like they have in Germany (Sportsverein) where the state/county/municipality funds part of the operations and the membership, sponsors and the organized events fund the remainder.

  17. @omgarsenal
    October 12, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Just think if your ideas were merged with my idea about school football (posted in another thread), then going a step further and merging ALL youth football (club and school) into one; merging available facilities, organizers, sponsors, administrators, medical teams, coaching and PE staff TOGETHER with the [new] funding from FA and PL (agents taxing, player taxing etc.. as you say).

    Right up until the U19 age group, there would be a Central system where the kids are already based (schools) which has the backing and funding to be run properly and in line with a club-like structure.

    1/ This will keep kids at school longer (make them well educated) rather then kids and their parents running around after school from club to club waisting valuable time!

    2/ The School system already has rules and regulations so as to keep things in order and functioning with primary concern the well-being of children.

    3/ The School system will keep out SHARKS who do their best to take advantage of youngsters who drag kids out of their protected zone of school to an unknown ‘storm’ of promises and hidden agendas for their signature – only to be suddenly thrown into the ‘un-usables’. This activity by agents who do their best to disrupt a child in development does have major implications in family life (I know – my late brother went through it – dropped out of school to follow club football!!!).

    4/ The school system with properly set up infrastructure (supported by FA etc…) will then easily identify who are the young prospects of the future (who can then move on to Club academies through the proper and correct channels). Whilst the kids who are not cut out for top flight football will not have lost their schooling through fake promises.

  18. I had to cut my post short – so I will continue:

    5/ Clubs who have scouted youngsters who are inside this School Football scheme; will be able to see the players week in week out and report to who ever employs them on potential talents.

    6/ Clubs interested in signing such talented players will have to pay (based on independent valuation of the player) a development fee back to the school.

    7/ If the said player happens to also excel in his school work then this must be subsidized by the club so as to continue until the Child has completed his schooling to whatever level is his/her potential (hey we may end up with very well educated football players).

  19. Tony,
    Can we start a petition demanding that the FA introduce levies on the various organisations and individuals making millions from football and put the money towards providing proper coaching for youth and amateur football as well as proper facilities. (Probably best not to let the FA manage the money.)
    By the various organisations and individuals I mean the Premier League, Premier League clubs and players and agents. Nearly everybody I talk to thinks that the money being made by these organisations/individuals is obscene.
    If there was a good response to a petition started through Untold Arsenal, it could then be opened up to the followers of other clubs and the general public. If we made enough noise the FA would find it difficult to ignore and the the one’s making the money could be shamed into complying.
    Even a fraction of the money that comes into the game could make a dramatic difference to the future of football.
    It makes my blood boil that Greg Dyke has the front to ask other organisations to put their hands in their pockets when the FA started the Premier League in the first place !
    You really couldn’t make it up.

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