By Tony Attwood
International football is dying.
It is a phrase that Untold wouldn’t use because the general view here is that it died a long, long time ago, and is now only kept alive by the corrupt and the gullible (see last few articles on this site).
To support international football is to support Fife and Uefa, and ok, if that is what you want to do, you can do it. No one will stop you.
But now, with demonstrations being organised around the country this weekend to protest against Fifa and its behaviour over Qatar (including a demonstration before the Arsenal game against Swansea) it seems that there might be a movement growing which could ultimately bring down, if not Fifa, then its henchmen in the FA.
Do a search on the internet and you will find articles like “International football is dying, but there is a way to fix it” in the Telegraph International Football. Or the piece “A Dying Phenomenon” in 90min. Or again “Statistics Show English International Football Is Dying” from Bleacher Report. Alternatively there is “England team and international football suffering a long slow death” from the Independent.
Of course TV still covers international football but with ever declining audiences, and for much of the time the mainstream press won’t acknowledge the reality around them, but the fact is, international football is dying, and even when they won’t acknowledge it, the media knows it.
And so should international football die, given that it is run by Fifa and Uefa.
Of course, not everyone sees the issue in the same way – for example the Telegraph says, “International football – or to be more specific international football in Europe – offers an occasional moment of excitement amid hours of nauseating tedium.” Thus it avoids focusing on the horrors that Fifa bequeaths on the world, but still it makes the point. And it does add the additional tag, “The international break has left football fans craving the Premier League…. These symptoms are getting worse with every round of World Cup qualification.”
Now interestingly the Telegraph comes up with reasons for the death of international football which are quite different from my own. They write of “the facilitating of lack of competition; both Fifa and Uefa enabling countries with zero chance of qualifying enjoy sightseeing trips to London, Paris and Rome.”
Untold on the other hand would focus on the death of workers in Qatar, the corruption, the greed, the diversion of tax payers money that should go to grassroots football into the pockets of the already super-rich, and the disgraceful behaviour of governments in supporting it all.
So here we have two utterly different arguments, both of which end up with the same conclusion – stop international football. The Telegraph’s view that, “The reason so many countries are given this opportunity has nothing to do with a mythical idea of football equality – facilitating the growth of the game for smaller nations – as securing support for those in power. Prospective presidents would invite the Orkney Islands to play England in the run-up to World Cup 2022 if they thought one more vote would win their endorsement,” and the rest of us who think that it is all a waste of money run by the corrupt for the corrupt.
In some areas we can agree, as when the Telegraph says, “Football is meant to be entertaining. Few watching it – even the majority of Euro 2016 – can argue with credibility international football passes that test. That is why it is becoming little more than an unwanted interruption.”
There is a similar theme in 90mins where they say, “A common feature noticed is that it is played at a much slower pace, the creativity and skill that is seen week in week out on the club stage is so blatantly absent.”
Bleacher’s article a while back took a different turn, noting that only 40,181 fans turned up for England’s international friendly at Wembley stadium against Norway on Wednesday, 3 September 2014. Adding that “This is only a few months after… two men—in the form of Carl Froch and George Groves—managed to attract 80,000 spectators in that exact stadium by competing in the less popular sport of boxing. Or—to add real insult to injury—ESPN reported the original Wembley stadium hosted the 1981 Speedway World Championship Final in front of 90,000 spectators.”
But there is more. For not only are people increasingly reluctant to support internationals on moral grounds (if you do go, you are supporting the FA and Fifa and all that this entails) but also the TV audiences are collapsing.
According to The Telegraph, England matches can attract around half the viewers compared to the Great British Bake-Off (a cookery programme).
The TV audience for England’s game at Wembley, which itself was less than half-full, was 4.5m on ITV, peaking at 5.5m, while GBBO’s audience on BBC1 was 8.3m reaching a peak of 9.1m.
Meanwhile The Independent reported the World Cup final attracted “A peak audience of 20.64 million.” They also added this made “it the biggest UK TV audience since the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.”
So people prefer a closing ceremony (not a sporting event) to the world cup final.
And here’s another one: According to the during one international “ThingsBetterThanBeingAtWembleyRightNow” was a trending topic on Twitter.
Maybe we should start #StopInternationalFootball
Of course while the FA fail at most things they are never short of another way of throwing money around as with their 2016 brand campaign during the Euros, something which came a cropper. I mean, it is hard to support the notion of “Together for England” when we lose to Iceland. Nor is it easy to get excited about supporting the team overseas when all the costs of overseas travel have just risen by 25% in the past two months following the collapse of the £.
The Independent tried a different angle by blaming the fans…
The pantomime patriots were graceless, obtuse and entirely predictable. They abused Rio Ferdinand to the soundtrack of a tone-deaf, brain-dead brass band. Only England could win 8-0 away from home and inspire such joylessness and contempt.
before moving on to say that “England have become a toxic football nation. Our irrationality irradiates the international game. Reasoned debate is drowned out by manufactured controversy, mutated loyalty and small-mindedness.”
This article was written before Hodgson resigned, before the Fatman was appointed and before the Fatman admitted he was, well most things that are not very nice.
And even before this they could comment…
“The fault line between club and country is widening. Premier League managers understandably resent risking players in friendlies and non-events such as the win in San Marino.”
Before the disaster that was the Euros the Indy was saying, “Ask yourself this: when did the national team last make the spirit soar or the heart sing? When did an individual act of brilliance or a collective imposition of will on England’s behalf stimulate the senses? Michael Owen’s sinuous goal against Argentina? Beating Germany 5-1? David Beckham’s injury-time free-kick against Greece? They were, respectively, in 1998, 2001 and 2001.”
But despite totally failing to grasp that a significant number of people dislike internationals because they are representative of the appalling FA and the awful Fifa, they do see a bit of the problem for the FA “whose financial future is wedded to that of the England team.”
Of course it is not just international football that is utterly corrupted and corrupting. Below is a separate note from the Independent which appeared after the article on international football. And it is quite true. But if we could also get rid of international football, and put the tax payers money that is thus saved into school sports, we might be doing something rather good.
Schools must provide sporting education on a budget of £8,000 a year. West Ham United have been given a £630 million stadium for £15m, the price of a jobbing midfield player. That simple contrast, between need and greed, rhetoric and reality, exposes the great lie of the Olympic legacy. Suffer, little children.
ARSENAL: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 by John Sowman; foreword by Bob Wilson.
The Long Sleep recalls a time when professional footballers in England were inextricably tied by contract to their club and not allowed to earn more than the statutory maximum wage. It traces Arsenal’s fortunes through that era, as well as the stand taken by one man who went on a 141 day strike against his club – a strike which led to the creation of football as we know it today.
Now available to purchase on line as book or Kindle version at
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England
- Didn’t appreciate KO time, M1 is a disaster, but watching Arsenal is a joy
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the team and league positons AFTER the game.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: injuries, yellow cards and recent form