If teenage English footballers are not as good as foreign ones, surely playing alongside top class foreign ones has got to help them learn and improve? How do you encourage or persuade the team’s owners to play the English players if it is not so likely to bring them instant returns and success?
Greg Dyke – His Speech – The Future of the England Team: Here
Greg Dyke – Football Asociation, Premier League and Young Players: Here
The question of quotas raises its ugly head. Firstly, the Football Association and because it is a question of law, European law and possible new legislation, we need to be absolutely sure of our ground if quotas were to be introduced. We have to look at all the arguments on equal opportunities, restriction of trade and even racism. It may even involve running test cases. Are quotas in place in any other countries? If there are and those countries remain in FIFA and UEFA and can compete in World Cups and European championships, is that not counter to England’s opportunities and therefore unfair to us – giving us recourse in law under current circumstances.
How do Germany and Spain for example, seem to manage to maintain higher percentages of home grown kids in their first team league squads than we do?
Quotas could be expressed in various ways that would not breach legislation. For example, what about the possibility of a quota for squads rather than first elevens? A quota that requires a certain percentage of the squad to be English and that a minimum number train with the first team? The rules could be adjusted to allow clubs to increase the maximum size of a squad by that percentage, so the league club is not restricting the number of foreign players below what it would have had anyway. Clubs could be directed to provide every opportunity to those English players but not actually obliged to play them in the first team. The hope and expectation would be that the players would develop further than they do now with the result that owners and managers would choose to select them for the first team on merit. The FA, backed by the government could declare this openly as their objective. It should invite clubs to participate, making it clear that if they want to continue to run their businesses and franchises in this country, they should contribute to the well-being of the national game as if they were English themselves.
I believe Greg Dyke does not want confrontation with the Premier League. Neither do I but I want what is best for my country not what is best for a foreign investor that has bought out my club’s name and adopted and adapted it for their own profit. We need them to behave in a way that makes us say and think “we” when we think and talk about them in the same way that we do when we think about our national team.
Surely there is a solution somewhere if all the European associations could agree to applying the same principles on this subject. The FA could at least broach the subject with UEFA?
If it did come to a confrontation, the government needs to ensure that national interest wins out. If push really came to shove, we really could go back to square one. Football fandom and fan loyalty runs too deep to be destroyed by the threat of withdrawal of mega funds which at the end of the day are frittered away on a privileged few. Even to the extent of setting up alternative clubs, leagues and competitions. Look at what Wimbledon have done in the face of the Milton Keynes Dons situation. As a nation, we could build the whole shebang from the ground up again if need be.
On the face of it, this is a storm in a teacup about a game that has got above itself. Many people will think that it does not deserve the attention it receives. I obviously disagree. When you delve deeper, it involves big business, the way the economy is run, politics, the morale of the nation, our standing in the eyes of the world and the fitness and education of our children.
When you then step back and take a look at the full world picture, football shrinks again in importance and significance. But what are those of us who love it supposed to do in these circumstances? We can’t all dedicate ourselves to international politics and trying to alter the world by shaping it to our political will. All most of us can really do is the best in the local situation we find ourselves. In personal behaviour towards others and in our jobs. If our jobs are in football or sports journalism, so be it. If they involve representing your country’s interest through their football association, so be it. In doing so you should try to be dedicated and unimpeachable and care. Don’t take the easy route, don’t succumb to temptation and bribes. As a player, as a manager, as a chief executive, which brings me back full circle to Greg Dyke and his speech.
A Need For Compromise
I have spent hundreds of words drifting away from the core subject of this blog with my personal views on how this is all symptomatic of what’s wrong with the country and how you might put it right. So much so, that I have cut most of it out and left it on my own private files. At the end of the day, HotspurHQ is about Spurs, England and the Premier League. The point that I am trying to make though, is that extremes of approach don’t work. Digging your heels in when faced with another opinion and refusing to engage isn’t helpful. What we need to do is find a middle ground which works for both sides. We need to achieve a recognition that the aims of foreign owners and even some British ones do not naturally coincide with those of the nation. The bottom line is that the Premier League club’s function is to make a profit for their owners/shareholders, preferably by being successful. Like Keith Burkinshaw said on leaving Spurs in 1984,
There used to be a football club over there.
The interest of the FA and therefore the English government is the success of the national team. The two things are not the same. We need to bring them together so that they are not mutually exclusive. We need to find a way to get the Premier League team owners to genuinely cooperate in that aim. To do that needs government input.
We need the Premier League, including the foreign owners to pursue the success of the national side as much as the success of their own team. How do we ensure those interests coincide? I think the first thing to do is to establish what it is that this country has got that the owners of the clubs want? There must be something, otherwise why have they become involved in our national game? Can we help them get it if they put the interests of the national team first? Might we have to withhold it if they are not willing to do so? For example if you are a foreign owner that has bought up a sizeable amount of London real estate, might it not be necessary to consider whether we need to repossess it/compulsorily purchase it back to make it a national asset if the nation is not benefitting in the way the nation wants from their presence and involvement? Some of these foreign owners have moved their family or family members to this country, some seek British citizenship. We could look at this for them. Have they been allowed to buy up our football teams and gain a foothold in the country because they trade that off against supplying natural resources that we no longer have of our own – are they holding that as a revolver to the government’s head to enable them to do whatever they like with our national institutions? The government can consider whether it needs to take a stand on these issues to help the nation’s interests through those of our national football team. Putting those kinds of issues on the table for discussion may encourage more genuine cooperation around the use of English players in the first team and the release of English players for all internationals.
I think it is time for the government to make up its mind. Either this is an important issue to them and government needs to get serious in representing the nation’s footballing interest, or it needs to say in its view this is small potatoes compared to international politics and other issues. If that is the case stop playing around the edges of the issue, cut our sovereign interests fully adrift and be honest about it. Make your mind up time Mr. Cameron. Your commitment to the Olympics seemed to demonstrate that you understood the importance of sporting success to the well-being of the nation. Give the Sports Minister a clear direction and instructions on the national football team and make them public, one way or the other. Just don’t leave Greg Dyke, Roy Hodgson and their successors trying to do a job for their country with one hand tied behind their back like Stuart Pearce.
It has been quite a trick to hold onto the fans and audience despite the fact that about the only connection clubs have these days to the local fans is that the stadium is in the same general area, if not the same precise location that it has always been. Newcastle’s first team is almost exclusively French. The only Geordie thing about them is that they play their “home” games in Newcastle. Arsenal have been mostly French, Dutch and Spanish for a generation. After this summer’s transfer dealings, Spurs appear to be going the same way.
Had to get that off my chest. Time for a few more light-hearted blogs to brighten the mood. Watch this space.