The FA is not part of a solution to English football’s problems. It is part of the problem.

By Tony Attwood

In 2010 I wrote a piece that I have subsequently referred to several times, since I am rather pleased with it.   It was a piece about why England do so badly at international football.

The article looked at the number of players, the number of players playing in their homeland, the number of coaches, the number of clubs and the size of the population, and compared all of these with success in the World Cup.   The answer I found was that it was the number of coaches that mattered more than anything else.

My concluding point was this

“UEFA says there are only 2,769 English coaches holding the three top coaching qualifications. Spain has produced 23,995, Italy 29,420, Germany 34,970 and France 17,588.  I can’t find the number for the Netherlands.

And at last there is a link.  The number clubs is irrelevant, and although obviously you need population, and players, these are not the fundamental factors.  What you must have is top qualified coaches so that your best players don’t play in little club with no qualified coach, but rather play under good coaches.  (Spain take note, on this basis your world cup success rate is not acceptable)”

[This was written before the rise and fall of the all conquering Spanish side of recent years].

Since then many newspapers and TV stations have taken up the analysis, and although sadly not acknowledging Untold, they are at least on the right track.  While some still talk about “too many foreigners in our league” and others suggest that English players should “go abroad to get experience” they do stress that coaching is the heart of the matter.

Often the figures are varied – some quote the number of B licence holders only – which inflates England’s figures and deflate some other countries, but no matter how they play with the numbers the situation is still much the same.

But apart from others seeing the cause of the problem, what else happened?  Not much in fact.  There’s talk about coach education and coach development being linked and a new coach education organisation led by a technical director, being set up.

Greg Dyke calls such moves “a fairly radical change in coaching,” but who knows.  Without the numbers, there’s not much we can say about such a thing.  The organisation is only viable if it produces the results we need.

Matching each blah blah blah of the FA the Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said, “The Premier League and our clubs will keep playing our part to help ensure that the provision of top quality facilities and coaching is delivered where it is needed most and will have greatest impact.”  As I said, Blah Blah.

And we are back-tracking like mad on the key issue of the number of top coaches.  The FA is now once more nattering away about work permit rules to restrict the number of non-EU players entering the English leagues.  There’s another one to include some of the home grown players that have to be in the 25 registered players in the matchday squads.

So when Dyke said, “The problem is still there. Everyone recognises a problem, but no one wants to solve it,” I threw the cat across the room and screamed at the TV.  Actually I didn’t because I don’t have a cat, and if I did, I wouldn’t, and I leave shouting at TVs to others.  But I would have liked to have had the opportunity and nerve to pour a bucket of singularly unpleasant stuff over Dyke’s head.  If ever we had a case of the bland leading the bland this is it.

Of course the FA have a vested interest in saying that they are looking at the answer, because they and their profligacy are part of the problem.   “We are still actively looking at the system of homegrown players in the Premier League which I think would make a big difference, but that is quite complicated,” he said, and most of the audience yawned.

In simple terms, for the FA there is a “blockage” for players between 18 and 21 that is preventing English players gaining experience and breaking into Premier League teams.

But there isn’t.  Arsenal spend a fortune each year bringing through young players and nurturing them.   What about Chuba Akpom and Benik Afobe?  What about the players that we bring in at an early age and develop like Theo and the Ox?  What about our rescue of Danny Welbeck.  What about how we rescued Kieran Gibbs from Wimbledon?

In December 2009, the FA put forward a four year plan to overhaul their finances and operations to be ready for the 2014 World Cup.

In an interview at the time in the Guardian Ian Watmore the Chief Exec said the FA had made “substantial progress on establishing a working relationship with the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore”.

“The period between now and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is critical,” he said.  He spoke without a hint of a laugh about how proud he was that the FA was sponsored by a beer company and the most notorious fast food chain in the universe – and a maker of chocolate.

He didn’t mention the Nationwide building society – one of only a handful of financial institutions that came through the destruction of our economy by the banks with its reputation more or less in tact, were about to cancel their sponsorship of England, which they duly did.

There was also much talk about how things at Wembley were improving financially.  But then in 2011 the FA threw away £21.4m on interest charges having run up £367m of debts.   The FA went to the local council and demanded – and got a reduction in the rates (local taxes) paid on Wembley of £5.9m  It kept them going.

Then the financial statements for the seven month period ending 31 July 2013 showed that Wembley National Stadium Ltd made a loss after tax of £2.7m.  In September 2013 the BBC reported that Wembley Stadium, wholly owned by the FA, had debts of £267m.

Now what is worrying about this is that in order to stop journalists from putting 1 and 1 together (I know we normally speak of putting 2 and 2 together but that is a bit tough for journalists) the FA keeps changing its story.

In his interview with the Guardian Ian Watmore the Chief Exec of the FA in 2009, cited above, said of 2014, “That is also the point under current plans at which Wembley breaks even. The stadium will be servicing its own costs including interest and depreciation,” estimating that the FA would have to continue to contribute £20m a year in loan repayments and services rendered until then.

But last month (September 2014) the Mail reported that “England will have to play their home games at Wembley for the next eight to nine years until the Football Association is debt free for the payment of the stadium, according to Club England managing director Adrian Bevington”.

So the vision of the self-financing Wembley stadium hasn’t happened.  It probably failed because of the rain – just like the FA failed to keep its promises to Sport England “because of the rain.”

The fact is that the FA is not part of a solution to the ills of football in England – they are the problem – the problem at the under 8s level and a problem in terms of the England team.  A problem in terms of crazed ideas about restricting who can play where, and a problem in terms of finances.

In the next piece I’ll try and summarise this year’s plans, which have now replaced the plans for the last critical four year period, which seems somehow to have slipped by.

Part one of this story is here.


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5 Replies to “The FA is not part of a solution to English football’s problems. It is part of the problem.”

  1. Of course the FA is the problem, just like FIFA is the problem.
    What was formed many years ago as governing forces in the world’s most participated sport, have now retaliated with infected incompetence and corruption.
    Tony, you rightly draw attention to the dearth of qualified coaching throughout our land as a reason for poverty of success by our national side.
    In my view, it goes further than that.
    In the pre-WW2 years, there was a saying in sport that “a good fighter was a hungry fighter” and the same labelling applied to professional footballers.
    Now, mainly due to global TV (and advertising)in the top echelons of virtually every sport, there is hunger no longer.
    International honours are available without massive effort and while other countries achieve success, the casual, self-effacing attitude of the typical Briton, coupled with ever-increasing financial rewards, has resulted in a distinct lessening of ambition.
    As a consequence, public support has switched quite positively from national to club level, with tribal allegiance well to the fore and it would appear a formidable problem to envisage mutual success.

  2. Further to my post on the previous thread, as a youth coach, the problems with bringing players through are primarily due to:

    1) Poor quality coaching. The scarcity of UEFA B, A and Pro Licence coaches is testament.

    2) The lack of decent facilities.

    1 can be (partially) addressed through making all the coaching courses free. A really easy step to take! I have also heard that people doing the UEFA B who don’t have any prior professional involvement are looked down on and find it much harder to get through. Jobs for the boys. There is no reason why players who have not had significant careers can not become good coaches – Wenger, Mourinho and Houllier to name but three. I believe the Brentford manager (Warburton) used to be a city broker! But very much the exception.

    2 is more difficult, but, in my view, the Premier League should be dipping much deeper into it’s pockets. That is where the money in the game is – it wouldn’t take much more to hit the FA’s targets – and then some. Also need far more decent quality grass pitches.

  3. Back in 1988 I took the FA Preliminary Badge/Course 6 to 10 Sundays 18 started 12 finished 6 passed . The interim course was at least £600 then and a full badge was reserdential at Bisham Abbey . Who can afford the time and expense are the coaching courses abroad subserdised ? Maybe cost is the reason for so little number of qualified coaches or elitism

  4. On to other matters, why is Scholes picking on Wilshire? The FA see the problem, but they don’t want to acknowledge that they are part of it. So wht bother with them? Finally, on top of the coaching, even the poor refereeing can have an impact on the National team.

  5. The biggest issue that the FA faces is its appointment of PGMOL to officiate. Officiating must be open, honest, responsible and accountable.

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