December 1st 2016
Great Ambassadors For The Game?

Yesterday to the general surprise of no one in particular (let’s be honest, when you only interview one candidate for the job, there’s not a lot of competition, is there?) Gareth Southgate was given a four year contract to manage the England team.

He was the obvious choice. He’s done ok in his games in charge after Big Sam said rather silly things in return for promises of £400k, and he’s probably not going to do anything daft. Plus he’s got a good record with the Under 21 side.

The FA seemed happy with their choice. Their Chief Exec Martin Glenn said: “Gareth is a great ambassador for what the FA stands for”

That is an interesting phrase because in the very next story on Radio 4 last night, it was reported that in 2003 they pulled all the funding from a Child Protection Review, THREE YEARS early. This is the same organisation that wanted teams to “assume there was a problem and get after it” last week in the wake of the revelations about child abuse involving Barry Bennell and others.

So what do they stand for in return for the £30 million they get of your money?

Not child protection clearly. They are rather good at closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but ask them for proactivity and you will be sadly waiting.

Surely they stand for Grass roots? No, not really. We at Leisure Leagues know this from bitter experience. They view the grass roots as something that is an afterthought and something that can be used to make more money, while at the same time harassing those who choose not to affiliate to their weak disciplinary procedures.

So do they stand for referees? Their own officials are leaving the game in their thousands after being subjected to verbal and physical violence and receiving no back up, so no, they don’t appear to stand for them either. A recent survey has also shown that 60 per cent of referees experience significant verbal abuse in at least one in two games, while more than 19 per cent say they have endured physical abuse: “The lack of respect shown for match officials is both disgraceful and disgusting,” said one 19-year-old referee. “If the Respect campaign is having a positive effect, I dread to think of how bad respect was 10 years ago.”

So they don’t care about their own referees, Grass roots football and they pulled the funding from their own Child Protection Review in 2003, surely they must care about the National Team? Well they said they did in 1991 when they formed the Premier League and signed the deal with BSkyB to show it. They said that was going to make the England team great again. Worked hasn’t it? The whole country was thrilled by the England team in the Euros this summer, right?

Instead, all that happened with the Sky money is that the rich got richer and bought foreign players, while the poor got poorer and English youngsters were denied chances to play for their first teams of their clubs.  Many Premier League teams now field one or two English players as a maximum in their teams and this is now having a negative effect on the England team, in turn making Gareth Southgate’s job harder to do.

So good luck Gareth, all the best. You are probably going to need it. And, remember, if you can talk a good game, deliver very little, get a lot of money for it and still not be truly held to account, you may well really be a “great ambassador for what the FA stands for”.

Andy Thorley

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