The FA: from 90 Minute Noah to McDonalds via 3G George, Ukip and Marmite

By Tony Attwood

There was a lovely comment on the Independent web site recently that said that “In recent years the FA has finally woken up to the reality that amateur 11-a-side adult football, left unaided, is withering away, despite the boom in popularity of the televised professional version.”

Has it?  Woken up, I mean.

Forgive me for disbelieving this, because the Independent claims to have “highlighted in the autumn, the parks game is in crisis. Poor facilities and rising costs have combined with changing lifestyles…”

Hmmmm.  It sure didn’t really do much about the announcement in March 2014 that the FA would lose £1.6m of public funding for the amateur game in England after failing to reverse a sharp decline in the number of people regularly playing the sport.

At the time the FA general secretary Alex Horne made a response that has become infamous in which he blamed the “severe weather”. Infamous because Sport England measured the progress of the FA between August and October – a period when the weather was rather fine.

He then said, (and oh how we would have laughed had we not been crying with despair),”It will not however deter the FA’s continued extensive financial commitment to the grassroots of the game, of which this is only one element.”

But deter the FA it has because since then although it has drawn up lots of plans it hasn’t actually done very much.   Or actually anything.

Sport England also warned the FA last year that it could lose up to 20% of its £30m overall public funding package for the four-year period 2013-17 if it failed to halt the fall in numbers.   It looks like that money will go because between 2009 and 2014, 2,360 adult male teams packed it in.  That is 8% of the total.  In 13 years there will be none left.

Now, utterly unable to address the issue in any practical form, the FA hold conferences instead with make believe personalities like “90-Minute Noah”, “Clubman Colin”, “Kickabout Kyle” and “3G George”.  (That is absolutely true.  Honest).

Having hit on the notion of not spending money (which mostly goes on paying the debts on rebuilding Wembley) the FA has found a new role in life, asking questions like, “what deters people from playing more frequently, what could persuade us to play more, and how we can be reached to be persuaded?”

So, after spending goodness knows how much on research and funny graphics they have decided that a bar is a handy thing to have near the pitch so the players can have a rink.   Although they admit that having a pitch and changing rooms is also a good idea.

Now I am not a person who normally knocks research.  In fact, since my prime income comes from writing adverts I depend on research to tell me what the target audience is thinking, doing and buying.  Without it, advertising usually comes very unstuck.

But the research in this sector is clear in what it tells us.  The pitches are in many cases in appalling condition, as are such changing facilities as there are.   Many are owned by local authorities, who starved of money by central government in England, are either closing the facilities down in order to sell the land off, or quadrupling the rent on each one, while reducing the money spent on maintaining them.

Additionally, between 1980 and 1990 the government of the UK had a policy in England and Wales of selling off school playing fields to housing developers, in order to boost the coffers of the exchequer.  As a result thousands and thousands of football pitches were lost for all time.

The only recovery there has been was between 1997 and 2007 with the Building Schools of the Future programme, which encouraged the building of all-weather sports areas around the school.  Five a side pitches and training pitches at these schools are used during the day by the school and at evenings and weekends by local clubs who hire them, and so help the school funds.

But these conferences by the FA are a sham, suggesting that in the light of their catastrophic inability even to hold onto a slither of Sport England money they are still doing something.  They are not, because they don’t have the money to do anything, because despite the income they get from the FA Cup, they spent it all on their folly: Wembley.

And so we have the insanity of the FA in desperation for any pennies from anywhere, taking money from the UK’s 7th most hated brand: Mcdonald’s.  A singularly inappropriate sponsor given what the FA proclaim that they are trying to do.

Interestingly the FA is not in the list of most hated brands – but maybe they will be by next year.  In case you are interested, here is the most hated list of brands in the UK today.

And in case you are not a UK resident I have put a note by each one to explain what it is

1 Ukip (a political party that seeks removal of the UK from the EU and the end of freedom of movement of people across Europe on the grounds that now the leader of Ukip has a German wife, no one else should be allowed to have such an adventure).
2 Conservative Party.  (The dominant part of the current coalition government and the party of power during the selling off of school playing fields).
3 Marmite (a yeast extract product one can put on toast)
4 Ryanair (a budget airline that charges more for a sandwich than for the flight from Birmingham to Dublin)
5 Labour Party.  (the second largest party in the House of Commons; the part that invented Building Schools of the Future.  It was founded as a left wing party, but somewhere took the wrong turning.)
6 Liberal Democrat Party (previously radical party that campaigned against the rise of student fees as a prime part of its election pledges and then joined the Coalition and voted to raise student fees dramatically while hoping nobody noticed).
7 McDonalds (a hamburger joint which sponsors the FA, which ran a court case once in which it sought to prove that its food was nutritious.)
8 Starbucks (a coffee shop, famous for asking people their names when they order, so it can be written on the cup.  The common response of the person behind the person being asked for a name is “Don’t tell her Pike”.  Mind you, that’s a very English joke).
9 Facebook (a web site used by terrorists and people who think that when in a restaurant the normal behaviour is to photograph your food and post it on line so others can see what a sad git you really are.)
10 KFC (a fast food chain with the interesting ploy of selling food product that is unidentifiable).

There, I didn’t show my prejudices did I?

Untold Arsenal

22 Replies to “The FA: from 90 Minute Noah to McDonalds via 3G George, Ukip and Marmite”

  1. Tony i take it you won’t be voting for UKIP or having a coffee in starbuck’s

    Starbucks is expensive but the coffee isn’t actually that good

  2. Tony,
    As a professional author of advertising, you probably won’t recall the Marmite of my day (1930’s) where, on the lid, were the dreaded words
    “Too much spoils the flavour”.
    As for KFC, my wife and I are still notorious in Gibraltar as “the couple who asked for a knife and fork with their order”.

  3. @OMG Arsenal,
    It’s “Don’t tell HIM, Pike” and would take too long to explain.
    Any day now the episode of Dad’s Army will be repeated and no doubt you will be advised to watch it.

  4. @Gord
    February 17, 2015 at 5:14 pm
    In the link you provide the top picture has a photo of the present stadium.

    Painted on to the seats we can clearly see these white letters:

    ‘T H F C’ The Horrible Football Club.

    It’s reassuring to know that they know their name.

  5. Any chance you can give us a reference to article or the research used to establish the 10 most hated “brands” in the UK in order to qualify the samples Mr. A?

  6. Dad’s Army… from memory! Quite an iconic episode.

    The show features a Home Guard platoon from WW2. The Home Guard was made up of those too old/too young/too infirm to fight in the regular forces. A kind of last ditch defence should the Germans invade. This platoon, based in the fictitious(?) seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea was led by Captain Mainwaring – a pompous bank manager by day. One of the troops was Private Pike a simple boy in his late teens.

    In this particular episode some German spies landed and were holding (the obviously completely ineffective platoon) at gunpoint.

    The German officer says to Private Pike “Vat is your name?” to which Captain Mainwaring ordered “Don’t tell him Pike!”

    Not really as funny in print as on screen – but a British comedy classic. I will wait on other readers to correct any of my missed memories.

  7. Finally, have just seen that Ian Lavender (the actor who played Pike – and latterly had a role in Eastenders) is 69 today. I am feeling very old!

  8. Of vaguely more interest is the back page of one red top complaining about the nine fouls on Hazard.

    Jack Wilshere gets fouled that much in every game! Most of ’em uncalled. Usually only one (or two) from an over dribble when he was working his way back to full fitness (not the Utd hack in the last game then). Quite a contrast there in the coverage of England’s best attacking midfield talent and the Gazprom No.10. Interesting observation.

    Gazprom-upon-Fulham (don’t want to confuse them with the German or Russian franchises…), what a club!

    And then we have the apology from Rooneh for a dive that the majority of plundits in the studio didn’t have the footballs to call a dive. Ok, the England manager can be excused just about, but if he didn’t want to say something like that about his infamously diving captain who everyone knows is a diver, then why go in the studio in these first place?

    All very odd.

    What would be the coverage be if:

    A) an Arsenal player had dived against Preston?

    B) Arsenal fans were chanting racist abuse?

    C) etc.

  9. Why are the pundits not honest in their opinions? Yet they continue to “preach” about honesty and fairness and all the good sounding stuff all the time.

    I think the phrase:
    ACTION speaks louder than WORDS is so correct eh?

  10. Finsbury, you ask what if an Arsenal player dives? We already have an answer to that! Eduardo was charged with “bringing the game into disrepute” and banned for 3 games after that “dive” against Celtic! Clearly the “dive” wasn’t without contact by the goalkeeper, as in the case of Rooney, so Arsenal managed to get the charges revoked based on video evidence. Of course, we wouldn’t see any such charges being brought against Rooney, because he is of course an “honest” player and plays for Man Utd and England.

    Also I’m absolutely riled about Moaninho talking about the “campaign” against Chelsea and now the article about Hazard being kicked about. Ofcourse the pundits and opposition managers and players alike advocate kicking Arsenal players to stop them from playing all the time, but you won’t read an article about that! The hypocrisy of the media frustrates me to the extent that I feel like giving up watching football. I ofcourse stopped watching cricket after I realized the amount of match fixing going on. Credit to them, the ICC have atleast done a lot to fix the problems, unlike the FA whose reaction to any problem is to pretend there aint one!

  11. Sam


    Following Old Deano’s slightly more restrained bungling in his last two games with the Arsenal what would the odds on him being Grandmaster Riley’s replacement be down the bookies? Dowd, apprentice Taylor etc, have all the subtlety of a HSBC accountant.

    Would I be allowed to place a bet with the company that owns the likes of Stoke Rugby Football FC on this item? Gollum’s heir or the Webbalty itself? Which one will be the sop once Grandmaster Riley’s tenure is sacraficed upon Scudamore’s alter in the wake of Hackett’s attack etc.

  12. It’s the Ref that should apologise.

    Not giving the off side.

    Not giving the foul.

    Not seeing the dive.

    3 decisions that cost Preston the tie.

    But in all honesty, after there spineless manager came out a defended Rooney I cant shed too many tears for them !!!

    And exactly how brain washed are people when the ‘wronged’ manager even feels obliged to defend Rooney ?

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