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October 2020
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“Football lacks leadership.” The view from Europe

By Tony Attwood

That statement – “Football lacks leadership” appears as a headline in the newspaper “Le Matin” today.

And although I don’t know enough about European football to give an opinion across the various leagues of Europe I would say that this sounds about right to me.

But I would argue that there is a difference between England and much of Europe (and obviously I am not trying to give a judgement for the whole of Europe).

For many parts of Europe has an investigative football media, rather than a media that takes the hand outs from the footballing authorities and reprints them and then spends the afternoon arguing about mythical transfers.  A media that takes an interest in European matters and so reports the lunatic activities of Fifa and its agents.  A media that probes and pushes and finds out why its federal prosecutor AND Gianni Infantino are secretly meeting together, and why charges against Infantino are being withdrawn.

In England we don’t have such a media.  We don’t even get told the issues are out there.

So when a Swiss newspaper says, “We see above all that football lacks leadership,” I can only look on in admiration, because it means that they not on recognise the problem, but also see their activity as central to finding a solution.  They have a media that is not sycophantic towards the footballing authorities.  They do not have a media in which everything that is written, is written from the point of view that our football is the best in the world, so there’s nothing to criticise.  Oh those funny foreigners, we are told.  How much they envy English football!

Thus when they discover their federal prosecutor and Gianni Infantino are concocting and bunch of cock and bull tales which will hide the truth and instead shift the focus once again onto Sepp Blatter, the newspapers in Europe step up their investigation.   When they find that Fifa is involved in a mega fraud which has passed through an Israeli bank, they report it. While in England the report says, and I quote,

”                                                                                                                                ”

Meanwhile, the media in Europe notices that FIFA has its agenda and is corrupt, UEFA has its own agenda, the leagues have their own association, the clubs too, as do the players, and they notice that no one is pulling these various players together.

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And then most importantly of all, they ask, “WHY NOT?”

Their point is that each organisation (except the eternally corrupt Fifa which has given up all rights to do anything) is entitled to have its own organisation representing its views, and yes, of course, that is true.

But (and this is the key point) they recognise that “the current leadership within football is compromised precisely because all “leaders” have vested interests…. Yet the different entities know that they are in the same boat. In the end, football organizations such as leagues… are really trying to guess an outcome without really knowing the parameters to achieve it….  This crisis shows how fragile these bodies are and [how they are] without a clear vision of the future.”

Now we might pause and think about that for a moment, because if the organisations that the Europeans are looking at, which are scrutinised daily by the press, are seen to be failing, can you imagine what they would make of our organisations.

The FA, which wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers money in a bid for the World Cup which got two votes.

The FA which had to stop calling one of its major competitions “The Charity Shield” because for 15 years it had utterly failed to abide by the basic charity law of the UK.

The PFA which is under constant scrutiny from the Charities Commission because of the way it handles the money that passes through its charity wing.

The Premier League which is the richest league in the world and which has a club banned from Europe for two years by Uefa for breaking the basic rules on financing.

The PGMO which operates under a model completely different from the rest of Europe, and which ensures that certain clubs get the same referees over and over and over again, while refusing to allow the referees to be interviewed post-match, and refuses to explain why it insists on having fewer referees in use than other top European leagues.

The newspapers which utterly refuse to report the allegations swirling around Fifa, and the investigations into the current leadership of Fifa, in the same way as they refused to report the change in the law which allowed the American agencies to arrest Fifa criminals for crimes committed in America.

What is extraordinary is that there can’t be any doubt that a) football in England is grossly mismanaged and b) not held to account by the media.

But in Europe where there is less evidence of mismanagement because there is more openness, the media is still remorseless in holding the authorities to account.

“We see, above all, that football lacks leadership,” says Le Matin.  “All of the organizations that have emerged in the past fifteen years are marching in disorderly fashion….  FIFA has its agenda, UEFA has its own. The leagues have their own association, the clubs too, as do the players… So we end up with the current situation….”

They see it, and they are asking the questions.   In England our media does not even see it.

This commentary continues tomorrow.

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