Football’s Fall

There is a common belief in England that the Premiership is the best in the world. For me, this fantasy is up there with the idea that the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas are having a party in Shangri-La.

The belief is based on the net value of team such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool. It’s based on the massive revenues the Premiership solicits from advertisers and sponsors. It’s based on world-wide viewing figures. It’s based on how much the papers love to follow the WAGs and peccadilloes of Premiership football players. It’s based on the high wages of the players.

It has nothing to do with the Premiership being the “best” for football.

To be fair, the Premiership ranks high in some things, but it’s awful on others.

Not so long ago I was at a Premiership Academy – I won’t say which one.

Premiership football clubs run schools where young boys study (academic subjects) as well as learn to play football. They begin as young as six years of age. People factories. Western style.

That day I had a meeting at this Premiership club and as I waited for it to begin I looked across the fields and watched what looked like ten-year-olds playing beautiful football.

“How many of these kids will play for the club?” I asked a gentleman who is one of the main organisers of the Academy.

“One or two,” he replied with a big grin on his face.

I was shocked. Several hundred children attend the Academy. “One or two?”

“Yeah, but it’s worth it, isn’t it? If they make like £20 million for the club.”

I didn’t reply. No, I didn’t think it was worth it.

It was at that moment I realised how greed pumped so bloodily in the heart of the Premiership.

But is it its fault?
  • Why are there so few English players in the English Premiership?
  • Why does the Premiership have the lowest rate of indigenous players in the world?
  • Why are we beholden to shareholders and mega-billionaires?
  • Why is nothing being done to ensure that children who are truly talented in football get to play on the stage of their dreams?
  • Why are fans paying through the teeth to buy tickets and kits?
  • Why hasn’t England won the World Cup since 1966?

Let me try and answer this question for you with two letters: FA. The Football Association.

This organisation should have died back in the Jurassic, but didn’t. It somehow survived after the meteor stuck and battled its way to supremacy. Its inability to tackle racism and the other major issues in English football leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

And let’s not get into the ridiculous handling of England managers by the FA.

You’re being silly, you might say, the FA is doing a great job.

I don’t think so. Look at the structure of the Football League in England and also Non-League Football. Please tell me it doesn’t require immediate reform?

If you look at the FA’s revenue you get the distinct impression that something is very wrong with it. There is no real development of grass-roots football despite its millions. There is no effective movement from grass-roots to the top of the Premiership.

When Manchester United supporters broke away to form FC United in 2005 and made it a stated aim to reach the Premiership there was a sense of disbelief and yet hope that a non-League football team could reach the very top. And that was despite the FA.

So is the Premiership the best in the world? Not for me. I care about the future and the hopes and dreams of those who want to play football. As Alex Salmon and Gordon Brown play politics over whether or not there should be a football team for 2012 Olympics that unifies all the nations that form the United Kingdom, the FA is carrying on as normal doing what it does best.

Very little.

Could somebody please give the FA a red card?

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