By Tony Attwood
The nonsense from the FA in terms of their top dog saying utterly inappropriate things reminded me of some of their other great outrages, so I thought I would gather together a little series of them.
Thus we started with Sweet FA. A history of the idiocy and incompetence in football administration
Now part 2: When you ain’t got nothing to say, best to just say what your predecessor or your boss said last time and hope no one notices.
This one dates back to the time when Tracey Crouch was Sports Minister. In May 2016 the FA was warned that if it didn’t reform itself it would lose government funding. Which since that actually means tax-payers’ funding (which means me – and some others) I was all in favour of that. I really does horrify me that I am forced to fund this bunch of do-nothing nincompoops.
The warning came from the then Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and to save time he re-ran a speech made by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe in September 2009 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. Which was a re-run of the speech by which demanded the FA act on recommendations made in a 2005 review of the organisation by Lord Burns.
OK you probably get the idea.
The problem is that the media endless promote the FA as being jolly decent chaps doing a jolly good job, and if England doesn’t win anything then it is because the foreigners cheat. And if there are no decent pitches for the kids to play on, well, that’s because our climate isn’t very helpful and it rained a lot this year.
Besides, sports and culture ministers in the UK are people without too much grasp of how sport and culture might be enhanced. The probably think that both sport and culture are “good things” and they might even once have seen a Shakespeare play or walked into a room in which the cup final was being shown on TV. But beyond that, well… (although to be fair to Tracey, although she is of the repetitive mode, she did know about football).
So when the word is out that in return for the ministerial salary of around £100,000 a year (about a fiftieth of the salary of your average Premier League player) the Rt Hon person ought to say something, the Rt Hon does the obvious thing, and re-runs the last speech – probably not quite aware that this was a re-run of the speech before which was a…….
Anyway, Untold runs it every time, not because we like making government sports ministers look like idiots (they do a jolly good job of that without our help) but because the message they run over and over and over and over and over again is right. The FA should lose all its government funding. Now. And it should be made to pay back all the money it has had for the last 50 years on the grounds of taking money under false pretences.
The only thing the people on the eternal jolly in Parliament don’t get right is the fact that they never do it. So here it is again, this time from Tracey Crouch, Her Majesty’s minister for Sport. In 2016.
“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’.” She was a bit vague on how much of our money she dishes out to the FA but thought it was around “£30m to £40m of public funding”.
She needed to speak because former FA chairman David Bernstein recently decided to copy Untold by saying what we said 12 years ago (when we started) that the FA was outdated and needed reform.
To which the minister, grateful not to have to remember any more lines said, “I share David’s frustration. That’s why we’ve made it clear that all sports governing bodies have to reform their governance codes. The FA is not excluded from that, and if they don’t, they won’t get public funding. It’s as simple as that. If there’s no move whatsoever, and at the moment we are seeing nothing from the FA in terms of progress, they are likely to lose some public money or it will go elsewhere in the delivery of football.”
If only it were true. Sport England withdrew its funding from the FA. Why not the government?
She went on, “That can include county FAs if they have reformed governance structures at county level; I will take it away from the centre and give it to the counties – at the end of the day, public money goes to growing football.
“I think it is really important that public money goes into the grass roots of the game; I want to see continued investment in football but it has to be done in line with proper reforms at the top.
“New public-funding rounds begin in 2017 so I want to see progress happen very quickly – I appreciate reforming an entire structure is not going to happen overnight but if the direction of travel is in the right place then they may well continue to get their funding.
“If there’s no move whatsoever, and at the moment we are seeing nothing from the FA in terms of progress, they are likely to lose some public money or it will go elsewhere in the delivery of football.”
Nothing happened and as the BBC reminded us, “A report from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2013 called for reforms in English football – and outlined concerns including financial management as well as the balance of power between the Premier League and the FA.”
The FA declined to comment.
I did a piece on the FA the previous February in which I pointed out that the FA has 21 Life and Senior Vice Presidents drawn from such bodies as Cambridge University FA, Leicestershire & Rutland FA, the Independent Schools FA…
Then six vice presidents, eight representatives of the Premier League, eight representatives of the Football League, ten divisional representatives, 43 county association representatives, eight representatives of affiliated organisations, nine representatives of other football associations (such as the University of Oxford Football Association, and several organisations that have already got special representation in earlier mentioned sections), one supporters representative, one disability representative, two inclusion representatives, a chief executive officer and two independent non-executive directors.
Above all, the FA has always backed Fifa. It backed Blatter. It backs Uefa. It backed Platini. Now it backs Infantino. Stout fellows all. Blatter was removed from Fifa following a corruption scandal. Infantino is now at the heart of a corruption scandal which the UK media won’t cover.
The FA has criticised the head of the UK Anti-Doping agency for even suggesting football may have a performance enhancing drugs problem. They criticised Arsène Wenger, who for a long time has advocated tackling doping in football. Then they supported the fact that Uefa had rejected the Word Anti-Doping Agency’s work.
Four years ago the Football Association has had to pay out £10m for the redundancy programme and made a loss, so asked for more taxpayers’ money. Meanwhile the FA keeps the number of qualified coaches incredibly low, compared to most other countries. They do it because… they are short of money, because they wasted most of it getting two votes in the bid to win the rights to stage the World Cup.
Maybe if they just wound themselves up, and got out of the business of football once and for all, we’d all be that bit better off. Or maybe if the Sports Minister stopped quoting what has been said for the last goodness knows how many years and stopped funding the FA, we might get progress.
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