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Sweet FA. A history of the idiocy and incompetence in football administration

By Tony Attwood

This is how the Guardian reports today’s story about the Football Association…

“Greg Clarke was forced to quit as FA chairman in ignominious circumstances on Tuesday after a series of offensive gaffes to MPs left the reputation of his organisation seriously damaged.

“The 63-year-old is to vacate his role immediately after his description of “coloured footballers”, amongst other remarks, caused shock and outrage in the world of football and beyond. The move comes just weeks after the FA sought to take the lead on inclusion within sport with the launch of its Football Leadership Diversity Code.”

Now if you are a regular reader of Untold you won’t be surprised, for since our launch in 2008 we’ve been cataloguing the gaffs of the FA alongside its gross waste of taxpayers’ money.  So I thought I would have a look at what we have said about them within the nearly 10,000 articles we’ve published.   But there are so many things we have been outraged by, this is going to take a series in itself!

Consider this then as “FA – the cock ups.  Part 1”

What you might not know is that Untold itself tried to engage with the FA by submitting evidence to them as for example their enquiry into why so few English players make it to the top level in world football.   They never acknowledged our submission (perhaps for the technical reason that we blamed the FA), although the research was rather good and is still valid.

Indeed there have been so many disasters it is hard to know where to begin – but I would like to start with one that wasn’t noticed by the media.  A little detail in the broad world of football, but important because it highlights the incompetence we are dealing with affects people at all levels.

Enfield Town – a tiny club in north London – were docked points for fielding an ineligible player.  But they fielded him because the FA’s own records showed (wrongly) that he was eligible to play.   In short, Enfield used the FA’s records, which were faulty, and then were docked three points for doing so.  That story is here.

Now, bearing in mind that the FA will punish clubs for following the FA’s own regulations and paperwork, we move on to a time when the Guardian newspaper did not bend the knee to the FA, and openly published an article which said “Spectre is less likely to be corrupt than Fifa.”   This followed the arrest of Alfredo Hawit, the head of the North and Central American and Caribbean governing body.  This was the man who succeeded Jeffrey Webb in May this year after Webb was arrested as part of the first US operation against Fifa.  And the link with the FA?  The FA has endlessly supported Fifa and pumped money into it and has never once criticised Fifa.

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This story was interesting because it came at the time when the FA had a “head of customer insight”, Ross Antrobus, did some research to see what we all think of the FA.  They found “a lot of indifference” to the FA.  They then planned to do more to make fans realise what a wonderful body the FA is.  But it was not published.  Instead the FA continued to bend the knee to Fifa and gradually sink further into its slime.

As for example when it was revealed (through a study of the FA’s accounts) that England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup (for which they got two votes, one of those being their own) cost £21m – £6m more than they had previously, misleadingly, let it be known they had spent.

Part of the scandal was that local authorities who could have and should have been spending money on building modern all-weather pitches for local teams, instead diverted £2.5m to help pay for lunches and entertainment for the most corrupt organisation sport has ever seen to help it gets its two votes.

Even days before the publication of the financial report, the sports minister of the day, Hugh Robertson, was still pumping the false line that “only” £15m had been spent.

To cover the cost of getting two votes to hold the World Cup in England the FA cut the amount it invests in the game by £5m.   The government then told the FA it was about to lose its £30 million of public money for spending on their grassroots programme because of the failure to deliver on its 2013 promise which was…

… a promise to invest more money, building 150 “football hubs” across England to transform football.  Greg Dyke, said he would deliver a “radical new approach” to grassroots football that “would reverse years of neglect of waterlogged council facilities by investing £230m in new 3G pitches and overhauling its approach to youth coaching.”

In fact there was a plan, but no money.  It was a con.  A PR stunt. Nothing happened.

But what of the government who are supposed to hold the FA to account?  Why don’t they act?

People such as John Flasby Lawrance Whittingdale OBE, who in 2016 was the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when it was reported he had been involved in a relationship with a female sex worker between August 2013 and February 2014 but claimed hadn’t realised what her job was when he met her on Match.com.  A week later, it emerged that Whittingdale had accepted hospitality from the Lap Dancing Association in 2008 at which time Whittingdale and two other MPs visited two clubs in one evening, while the industry’s licensing was under investigation by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee – his department. The hospitality was hidden away not declared in the register of members’ interests, which it should have been, and again wasn’t declared later when Whittingdale spoke out in the Commons against new regulations introduced by the Labour government – which it should have been.

Thus the reform of the FA was then down to a man particularly familiar with lap dancing.

So no reform then, but yet again in May 2016 the FA was warned that if it didn’t reform itself it would lose government funding.    That warning came from… John Whittingdale.  Which was the re-run of a speech made by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe in September 2009 which demanded the FA act on recommendations made in a 2005 review of the organisation by Lord Burns.    Which in turn was a rerun of the speech in November 2007 by  the culture secretary, James Purnell, calling on the FA to reform or risk losing state funding.

So what has the FA done in response to all these warnings, other than spend money in order to get two votes when it applied to run the world cup while screwing up its own records and then punishing a non-league club as a result?

A little more will be revealed in the next episode of: “Sweet FA”.

1 comment to Sweet FA. A history of the idiocy and incompetence in football administration

  • Josif

    I’ve been telling for years that English football has a burden of racism. No BAME referees, no or very few BAME managers at the top level, racist treatment of non-white English and non-English players comparing to the treatment of their white English peers and now we heard things directly from the lyon’s mouth.

    That house of cards has to go down if there is any desire for English football to heal itself from xenophobia.

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