By Tony Attwood
The Football Association is determined to be, well, that slightly bit odd, in its thinking.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you ran the FA and were concerned that in recent tournaments both the English national team and the under 21s team had been knocked out of the big event in the group stages with pretty poor results.
To wit: 2014 was the first time England were knocked out in the group stages of the world cup since 1958 and the first time they have been eliminated after just two matches.
In the 2013 under 21 competition – in case you don’t follow that – England also qualified and also went out in the group stages. Here is the table
So fairly feeble stuff, which raises the question, what is to be done.
The answer from all the statistical analysis is clear – you bring in more professionally highly qualified coaches. That is what countries like the Netherlands has done in order to do far better than England in tournaments with a much smaller population and very few players playing in their own country.
And England’s response?
The FA want to make it harder for non-EU citizens to play football in England.
The source of this wonderful revelatory view is Greg Dyke, who wrote the FA Commission report last year which said that the FA were going to build loads and loads of pitches for grassroots football, and had drawn up the plans and… were now waiting for someone to stump up the money (the FA having spent all theirs on servicing the debt incurred in building Wembley).
For a non-EU citizen to play in the UK he has to play internationally from a country ranked in the top 70 and have played in 75 per cent of the internationals in the last two years. But players and clubs can appeal, and by and large many appeals get through an appeals process run by….
well, now, who?
Oh. The FA.
It seems that the FA has been handing out work visas willy nilly and NOW THEY WANT IT TO STOP. So, presumably, they are telling themselves to stop it.
They cite the Croatia international Andrej Kramaric, whom Leicester City have bought. He has played four times by his country, and so didn’t qualify for automatic entry (Croatia although part of the EU does not have open access to the UK). So the FA heard the appeal, and gave him a visa. And now the FA says, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
It is so hilarious you can almost hear Dyke talking to himself.
In an interview Dyke described the appeals process that he is in charge of as “a bit of a farce”. The success rate at appeal is 79 per cent.
The new approach will reduce the number of internationals that the player must play in to 30 per cent, but the player must come from a country ranked in the top 50 by Fifa, or cost over £10m.
The FA argue that some players coming in are “mediocre” and cost just £2m and £3m, and block the progress of academy players into the first-team squad.
But this doesn’t make sense. If mediocre players are better than EU national academy players, then the EU national academy players must be sub-mediocre. How will letting sub-mediocre players play in the Premier League help England under 21s score more than one goal in the next tourney?
The fact is that if a club can find an EU player to do the job, it does so. It doesn’t buy in a player from overseas, just for the hell of it.
Besides, when WBA bought Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kiev for £10m he was not a member of the Nigeria World Cup squad. But he cost £10m so would qualify anyway.
And what will the clubs do? Pay the £10m, in installments, and then have private agreements to cease payments if the player fails to establish himself in the first team – that seems the most likely.
It is one of the most extraordinarily bizarre conceptions from the FA of all time, from a man who has now so lost it that he is reduced to finding a new initiative each month, no matter how barmy, just to justify his job, and hide his disasterous cock-ups over the Sport England funding, grassroots football and by and large anything else anyone allows the FA to get its grubby little hands on.
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