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February 2021

Oh look, a newspaper has discovered the reason why England teams are rubbish. Again.

By Tony Attwood

Although Untold is known by some as being the pro-Wenger blog, it has also always been a campaigning website, arguing as strongly as it can for change in certain areas, as well as pointing out where evidence is being ignored or misused by journalists in their own commentaries on football.

As an example of our campaigning, in June 2010 I wrote an article about the failure of English international football, and traced it back to the number of qualified coaches we have here per head of population.  My point was that it was the number of coaches that made the difference – not the number of foreigners playing in England, or anything else come to that.  All the evidence I had then, plus a lot more gained since, shows the same result.

Since then I’ve referred to the article several times, and three years ago the Telegraph ran an article arguing along similar lines.   After England were knocked out of the Uefa thing that they played this summer by mighty Iceland, several other papers took up the theme.

We’ve also argued the point that the FA has repeatedly wasted huge amounts of money that could be used to reform football coaching in England, most notably by bidding to hold the World Cup.  Also the FA had money removed from it by Sport England, after it failed to use the money given to improve grassroots pitches.  The FA claimed bad weather was to blame, perhaps forgetting that they were in England, where the weather’s activities are fairly well known.  Besides it was summer when they were supposed to be carrying out their work.

Within all this I’ve noted that successive Culture and Sport Ministers have suggested they would withdraw funding from the FA if it does not reform itself, but they never do.  The FA knows it is a threat made by junior ministers without much to insight, who are handed scripts given them by civil servants.  These civil servants are most certainty nicking a living, since they had each successive sports minister the same speech.   The FA know this, they know nothing ever comes to pass, and so they take no notice.  Unfortunately equally junior journalists with nothing much to write about go on reporting the threat of financial withdrawal as if it is real news not noticing the game the script writers are playing.

So we have the Guardian today quoting Minister Tracey Crouch’s comments from months back that, “I want to see continued investment in football but it has to be done in line with proper reforms at the top. I could not be more clear about how I want to see governing bodies perform. The FA gets between £30m and £40m of funding and that can go elsewhere. I’m not shy to say to the FA: ‘If you don’t reform your governance structures, I will give that money to other bodies that deliver football.’”

Well yes Tracey.  We know.  You said it before.  So did your predecessor, and his predecessor and… well a timetable would be a start.  And a focus on the actual problem, rather than the structure of the FA.

One of the games played is to try and blame the Premier League, whose remit has nothing to do with supporting youth football except for their own clubs.   But the FA make that point all the time, and most little ministers of sport get sucked into that and call the Premier League by names.  It never helps, but they always do it.

Now it looks like the Guardian has gone back and read some of our past articles and come up with this headline, “If English football is short of coaches, why are badges cheaper in Germany?”

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They make the point that in Germany the Uefa A course fee is only €800 while in England it is £2,965 to take the Uefa A licence.  The excuse given by Chris Earle, the Head of FA Education – it is more expensive in Scotland and Wales.  It such an excuse were not so pathetic it would be amusing.

But even if it is six years later than it needed to be the Guardian is at last joining the group of people who realise what is going on when it says in today’s article….

“….the biggest difference between the UK and Iceland is probably in the provision of coaching for young players. Even some of the youngest age groups are instructed by highly qualified coaches in Iceland. From the age of four every child has a Uefa-accredited coach. From the under-10s age group upwards the coach has to hold a Uefa B qualification, a level that allows coaches in England to manage right up to professional clubs. Also, all coaches are paid in Iceland, which is in sharp contrast to the majority of English coaches, who tend to be volunteers and very few of them will be Uefa B qualified.”

Earle’s response comes from the “We’re already doing that” school of thinking that has been developed so effectively by recent British governments: “I am pushing very hard to ensure our coaches are producing smiles through the grassroots game so that the kids develop a love of the ball, a love of the game and that they are engaged with football in a really positive way.”


Oh yes, they have also “conducted a review of how the coaches themselves were being tutored by a group of 500 who were employed by the FA, the results led to around half the tutors being released. “Our key aim is how we bring that fun element right to the forefront of what we are trying to do.”

Oh well, if it’s fun that is ok.

Sometimes correspondents write to Untold asking why we bang on and on about issues like this, and about referees, about the way TV is manipulating the way we see football, the need for evidence and so on.

Quite simply because we think these are important issues.   There isn’t much any of us can do to reform the utterly appalling FA except point out where it has gone so wrong, and why it is important to cull it, and that the media outlets do little save copy old Untold articles to fill up slow news days.

Really with the FA we should put it out of its misery, and start again.   So every time a newspaper reruns some of our findings (even if they won’t ever acknowledge us) it is one more, tiny, step along the way even though with a tiny bit of effort they could do much more.

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