Monday, 6 December 2010

FA from FIFA: Lets reclaim the beautiful game

I love football and the votes for England in the race to host the 2018 World Cup (just 1 apart from our own) was depressing. To be fair the USA and Australia must be even more perplexed as to how they lost out for 2022 to Qatar, a tiny country with a totally unsuitable climate for the tournament and no profile as a footballing nation.

The chance of a World Cup in England is probably not likely in my lifetime, so lets move to help the game we invented. Not by lecturing FIFA on how it is corrupt and dodgy, in the typically high handed aloof way we love in this country, but by cutting out the cancer in our game.

We have a professional league that is beyond all in its ability to generate money. But lower league clubs have no money and cannot foster talent. Our clubs have ignored FA rules to prohibit profit from owning clubs (that is why FC originally doesn't stand for Football Corporation) and colluded in turning football into a game that only profits a very small clique of mainly foreign footballers and a very small clique of foreign owners.

The book by David Conn, the excellent sports journalist who knows a lot about the murkier sides of UK football, The Beautiful Game, is a great primer for anyone doubting the need for reform.

Call me naive but here are some ideas for reforming the game:

-Bring back safe standing, as seen in Germany, so we can let fans into grounds at prices the working man can afford

-Rule that clubs going into administration have to start at the bottom again, stopping irresponsible spending. The only exception should be when clubs are taken over by supporters trusts, putting power in supporters hands

-The Football League should insist on small suppliers being priority debtors not footballers and other clubs. Maybe then clubs would think twice before selling a player to a financially suspect club.

-Impose a salary cap like in Rugby League and enforce strict points deductions for infringement

-Put in a levy, similar to what existed in racing, on transfer fees that goes to the grass roots game. The Football Foundation, which is funded by the FA and the Premier League, is a voluntary version of this but too often has to play the tune of its paymasters, whose player transfer budgets dwarf its investment in the grass roots talent in this country.

That would be a good start. People might argue that this is an illiberal impositions on the cowboy capitalist world of football but any GCSE economics student knows that markets need regulation. UK football has very little and before we start lecturing Herr Blatter and co perhaps we should put our own house in order.

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