Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ban the competition. The FA's answer to Englands World Cup dream

Greg Dykes answer to players coming through academies only to be released and managers not picking them, is to ban the ‘competition’. I.e. ban the foreign players. When questioned on BBC Radio 4 on the 24th March 2015 he was rightly asked “Isn’t the control with the clubs who benefiting from the new Premier League TV windfall will simply go on to buy the world’s best players in order to compete?” Thus increasing the quality of the product on the pitch, thus increasing the audience base, thus increasing the TV revenue and so the cycle continues. Can’t the FA see this? Actually, why can’t the FA embrace this instead of attacking it?

How will England be better footballers if we simply ban better players? We can’t pretend these players don’t exist. The FA should be the organisation starting at the very foundation of the game that helps to increase player’s capabilities and opportunities. Would it not be far better to produce players that academies ‘don’t’ release? If they were good enough for the first team and signed for free (baring the development cost) would they release them and buy a foreigner? The difference would then be that we have a player in the 1st team that can genuinely compete in the 1st team which already contains the world’s best players. Then and only then can we expect to see an England team competing for a world cup. Can people not see that? Are England players banned from playing in Germany, Argentina, Netherlands or Brazil? Could it be that they simply are not good enough?

Would Andy Murray win Wimbledon if we banned Djokovic, Federer and Nadal? Would he win anything else?

The FA is really in a dangerous position here. One which is so critical for our futures and could leave us scratching our heads again in ten years’ time. If they can’t hear what they are proposing we are destined for failure. They have to accept now that they simply cannot take on the might of the Premier League. Money talks, times have changed. Academy football is now affectively ran by the Premier League with its EPPP system. Overall, facilities and quality of staff has mostly improved because money talks. But the FA has an over whelming overall goal. A winning / competing England team. Well we have the answer here and no other country has that. No other country has got the benefit of having the world’s majority of best players in its top league. So here’s the challenge now. I have to get my English players, into those teams. The chairman and managers will not ignore them. Why would they? Why then would Manchester City just built a brand new training ground to include its Academy? The FA are attacking foreign owners, managers and players, yet that’s the biggest message from one of the world’s richest saying, “There you go English players, here is a world class facility for your young talent to come and thrive” What does the FA do in return? Threaten to ban its ability to buy the world’s best. Which if happened, reduces the quality of the product on the pitch and then will water down the interest, then the investment will reduce and the opportunity will pass. Overall though let’s be honest, like the League 3 idea, why can’t the FA concentrate on topics it has a realistic chance of changing.

Greg Dykes other solution is the 3G pitch strategy. The idea of giving young people better sporting facilities is of course welcomed. But here is the problem. What about the people that can’t afford to use them? Across England local authority budget cuts have resulted in local playing fields being left in awful unplayable states. So the answer then is the gleaming new 3G pitch. There is one on the council estate where I grew up. 100 yards from my old house. It’s absolutely amazing. But, I have driven past around fifty times to find it bolted and empty, on a Sunday afternoon. Why? Because it cost a minimum of £35 per hour to use it. But there is a big Lottery and Sport England logo outside, this is a sport legacy from the Olympics, so why is it empty? To reduce my possible answers I drive 30 seconds to the large open playing fields where I see a number of pockets of young people trying to play football on an overgrown cow field. So how is that great for development? It has simply become a non-negotiable commercial enterprise. I even approached them and asked If I together with two ex-international footballers could use the facility as we wanted to get some young people off the street to play football. We were not afforded £0.01p discount. I paid in full for three sessions and we put on class coaching and games for 16 year old lads who turned up in droves. This was FREE for them.

I remember someone saying to me that it was well over £10,000 a year to send their child to an elite tennis centre and I remember thinking, wow, no wonder we can’t win Wimbledon. What if on floor 35 flat 120 in the high rise there is an English tennis superstar? But we will never know because she will never get the opportunity? Well football is heading down the same road. It’s becoming a pay to play culture and soon (even now) if you don’t have money you can’t take part. That will only see a decline in the talent further down the line. Football never was a middle class game. It was a game on the street where children put themselves in the mind of their hero. The houses were terraces and obstacles were defenders. Society has stopped football in the street as unacceptable risk and a nuisance. We have put signs up on every grass verge saying ‘No Football’. So they are forced to the uncut field where it’s impossible for the ball to roll. But thanks to the understanding FA. We have an answer, the glowing new 3G pitch. But it’s locked and mum hasn’t got money for food let alone football, so that’s that then. Ill juggle the ball in my bedroom. It’s like the field mouse that ends up in our house. We remove her habitat, we build house on her land, so she seeks shelter in ours only for us to trap it and kill it.

Typically over all the years of football, the best players have arrived on the scene having come from difficult backgrounds. Does that create more hunger and intrinsic desire to change your family’s life? But equally players are around that have very stable backgrounds. So, the point is, we just don’t know from what community and what background the next great player will be hiding. But for sure we certainly need to ensure we look under every stone and give everybody equal opportunity. If we create a pay to play culture this could eliminate so many people so we have to find a way.

Actually in my experience schools already do so much for sport and the Primary Sport Partnership clearly supports inclusion and participation. This is great for English sport not just football. Perhaps the answer lies there. Some of these primary schools already do great work in identifying talent. I work in one primary school and an 9 year old showed amazing talent. On quick investigation this child had not played in any organised games or clubs. Partly due to finance. Together with the school we worked to find a solution and I proudly went to watch him recently in his full kit in a game where he was breath-taking. So, could schools play a bigger role? Something also suggested by great blog writer: @The_W_Address

My idea would be that children whom teachers or coaches feel show excellence within the four corner model could be awarded FA football tokens. Then on these new 3G pitches there is organised FA (not club) led coaching & player development that means players from any background and any wealth have an equal chance of being spotted. Not just because they can afford to play. Or because they are paying for a privilege to be in a professional clubs development centres.

Overall if you want to make England better:-

·         Embrace the Premier League don’t fight it. Embrace the competition. But use them, find out what they did to get there and act on it

·         Evolve our game. Review EPPP and make it better. Investigate if it really contains the best coaches, the effects of player reports and hours and strain on players families

·         Improve the standard of recruited players. Maybe the FA to have its own “Elite Development Centre” That’s FREE and clubs can come along under certain guidelines to recruit

·         Work better to improve inclusive access to new sporting facilities. Increase participation and don’t ever let money be a reason for not benefiting from what essentially belongs to the football community in the 1st place

·         For Nick Levett’s work to be further enforced and improved even further for grass roots clubs



Equal opportunities = Increased participation = Increased competition

+ Improved coaching + improved facilities + improved science

= Players that get into Premier League 1st team (on merit) / Better England Players

= World Cup?




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