February 10th 2017
Confidence Tricks

You would have thought, perhaps, that having a vote of no confidence in you by MP’s would see you retreat and try and make reforms – or at the very least be contrite.

That might be the reaction of the average man in the street, but it most certainly wasn’t the reaction of the FA after exactly that happened yesterday.

You might even say the FA proved yet again just how out of touch they are with these words:

“It is pity that the MPs have got nothing better to do,”I would have thought with the state of the NHS, the lack of building, not enough cash for defence, that [MPs] would put energy into that not the organisation of football.”

That PR masterclass came from one of the FA’s Life Vice Presidents, a gentlemen by the name of Keith Compton who used to be the Chairman of the Derbyshire FA and still seems to occupy a position of some power by virtue of the fact he wore the right tie (and, probably, dare we suggest a prominent place when the free lunches are given out too).

Let’s consider for one second the arrogance of that statement.

And once we’ve took in the staggering lack of empathy it contains, consider that is, in microcosm, exactly why the FA are in this mess and exactly why the Government is going to step in and make them reform their archaic ways – and these ways, with the greatest respect to Mr. Compton who I am sure is decent well-meaning man, are right there in that statement.

Damian Collins, the Culture Media And Sport Secretary said this: “The FA, to use a football analogy, are not only in extra time, they are at the end of extra time, in ‘Fergie time’. They are 1-0 down and if they don’t pick up fairly quickly, reform will be delivered to them.”

Isn’t the situation, in reality, much, much worse than that?  Aren’t they the equivalent of when Steve Kean was in the death throes of his reign at Blackburn? When he was scared to come out of his dugout after another defeat  such was the level of vitriol he received, but yet still steadfastly telling the press that he’s not a quitter and is the man for the job.

The FA aren’t the men – and such is the lack of diversity on their board that referring to them as men only is not far wide of the mark as a term – for any job relating to modern football.  They aren’t fit for purpose. The awful bullying tactics Leisure Leagues have been subjected over the years (some, but by no means all, we have written about on here – but there is way more to come) tells us that, but even in the face of Government pressure these people think they are untouchable.

How can you tell this? Well Governments as we all know don’t move quickly and votes of no confidence don’t just happen overnight. This one took seven years.

The Culture Media and Sport Committee published two reports in 2010 demanding the FA reformed, had fan representation and actually did something in return for the £30m of your money they get for grassroots football and scaled back the influence of the Premier League.


And do you know what happened then? Well, precisely nothing. The Premier league has really diminished in power since, hasn’t it? The FA is supposed to be the governing body of the EPL, but come on, who really holds the cards here?

And grassroots football is a shambles. An utter shambles. The Sunday morning game is crumbling and what’s more the FA doesn’t seem to give two hoots as long as the money comes in.

The other key pillar of reform was to bring more women and ethnic minorities in to the sport. There is a perception that the FA is a kind of geriatric boys club. In this case the perception is absolutely spot on. The figures don’t lie. The FA Council has 122 members – just eight are women and only four from the BME community. More than 90 of the 122 members are aged over 60. How is that supposed to reflect England in the 21st century?

As the Shadow Minister for Sport, Rosena Allin-Khan said yesterday: “Not only is diversity not in the heart of the FA, it isn’t in its body, or even its soul.”

Nor even, it seems, do they understand how important football is to people. Look again at Mr. Compton’s quotes and digest the subtext. Yes, we live in difficult times and to his ideas about the NHS, the housing crisis and the defence budget you can add social care, global security, Donald Trump and of course Brexit, as Theresa May’s in-tray overflows. But you can also bet that tomorrow, if their team wins, or Sunday morning if they win in the park then the football lovers of this country will have their lives improved just for a little while.

And that is the point. Mr Compton and his ilk can’t see that and if they think that all they look after is “just football” and they and they alone can look after it, then he really is as out of touch as they appear to be.

Of course, Theresa May and Damian Collins should be concerning themselves with weightier issues. That they’ve had to get involved in football shows just how bad things have become.

The real tragedy is that further sanction will be needed than some symbolic Vote Of Confidence. Frankly, there’s more chance of Leicester winning the Premier League again the FA actually taking heed. They know best after all, don’t they, Mr. Compton?

Andy Thorley

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