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November 2020
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The FA scandals part 3: hiding racism and appointing idiots

By Tony Attwood

This article is part of a series on the appalling behaviour of the Football Association in recent years, and the complicity of the media in allowing it to continue.  This piece continues from

We all know that the FA has just lost its chairman after a long stream of gaffs and stupid comments.  He has also now resigned as vice president of Fifa.

But since no newspaper or broadcaster seemed to mention it I guess most people don’t realise that this is just one of a whole series of people who have been kicked out of very senior positions within the FA.

We might remain the case of Sam Allerdyce who got through just one match with England before being caught out by the simplest of stings which caught him openly saying he would be willing to do all sorts of things not allowed by his contract to a couple of journalists dressed in Arabic costumes.

But what you may not know is that in 2017 Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the FA – and yet the government today ignores this and goes on funding the body with taxpayers’ money.

And it hides the fact that in 2017 Mark Sampson, the manager of the England women’s team was  sacked following evidence of “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour that too was hardly mentioned.

Back in 2018 Ian Wright openly claimed the FA was racist.  It caused the chair of the discussion and the other guests a certain on the show an amount of discomfort and uncertainty as to how to handle the conversation thereafter.

However subsequently the BBC put that part of the discussion on its web site which I was really glad to see.   Ian Wright said, speaking in relation to Sterling playing for England,

“How many people do you see get the criticism Sterling gets?  The football criticism is something every player has to deal with, but what he gets I don’t see any other footballer getting.  They don’t get that stick because for whatever reason they don’t rub up the people in the corridors of power the wrong way. I think there is an agenda against him.

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“There is an element of people at high end of the media who want to keep that guy down.  Simple.  When you look at the wave of criticism that he takes, there is a certain amount of racism towards it – what else can it be?

“They are picking on him because of the background he has come from and they want to keep him down, drag him back down. They don’t want him to continue to be a success.”

It is the sort of criticism of the media (and indeed the FA) that one does not often hear, largely because for the media to report such criticism it is commenting negatively upon itself – which of course it won’t do.  Subsequently neither the Guardian and Telegraph, two papers with very different political views, but both at the more educated and literate end of the spectrum, reported the discussion on their websites.

Which is interesting, because it is hard to argue against the notion that an ex-England player calling the media and the FA both racist surely, is a story worthy of mention.

What adds to the story is that the comments by Ian Wright came just 24 hours after another BBC radio channel (Radio 4) broadcast a learned discussion on President Trump’s continuous attacks on the media, and what it means both for the reporting of events in America at that time and in the future.

That discussion however had one very important point missing – despite the eminence and knowledge of the three people being interviewed (Lyse Doucette was one of them and you don’t get much more eminent than that in broadcasting).  That point was the media’s dual role: it not only decides what is and what is not news, it also takes a stance on the news.

Although in the broader context, my beef about how the media reports football is trivial when compared with Trump’s demonizing of the media, the refusal even to mention Ian Wright’s allegations of racism in football reporting is telling.  Had the media been secure in its feeling that Wright was wrong, they would have been open and discussed the allegation.

But instead they did nothing.   Here was an eminent player, who played many times for his country, accusing football as a whole of being racist, and the body that controlled football did nothing at all.  The discussion was not continued; it was swept aside.

This was the moment the FA and the media could have acted; it could have shown it really cared and was really interested, and it did nothing at all.

With such a background no one could have been at all surprised that Greg Clarke showed himself to be such a total prat recently, leading to his resignation as FA chairman and Fifa vice president.  The one thing we can be sure of however is that there will be someone at least as distasteful and incompetent waiting in the wings to take over both jobs.

The big problem however is not just that the FA is stuffed with people who simply don’t understand what is going on, it is the fact that they are supported by a media which refuses to criticise the FA until its pathetic stupidity and ineptitude can’t be ignored any longer.

Thus when Sport England withdrew its funding from the FA for work on new facilities for young players because of the misuse of the money by the FA not a word was heard.  It was an utter scandal which in any other walk of life in the UK would have led to publicity and a proper public and parliamentary enquiry into the working of the organisation.  Nothing happened save that Sport England stopped funding the FA and Untold and a handful of other places covered it.

Ian Wright’s evidence for racism in the media that he gave was sketchy and wouldn’t stand up in court, but for me that is not the issue.  It is the way the protest is ignored that is the issue.  The banding together of much of the media to avoid any criticism of what it decides is and is not news, and its close alliance with the FA, is one of the great problems that we have both in football, and in our country at large.

This series continues…

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