FA deserves applause for tough act of replacing suits with tracksuits


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The Independent Football

The Football Association gets to take on the big challenges and all of the attendant obstacles. Like how to make a great England team when a humiliating 73 English players were in Premier League starting XIs at the weekend: a mere 33.2 per cent of the available slots. And how to encourage people to continue playing the game when local councils have been so starved of money by the Conservative government’s austerity measures that they cannot afford the upkeep of their pitches.

The investment of money to put that right is the uncelebrated part of the game. No one wants to know about the Lancashire County FA’s nitty-gritty contribution to the development of clubs such as Sir Tom Finney FC, which was established for children who could not find a team and now has 14 sides. Or the extension of the coach-bursary programme which secured coaching roles at elite clubs for 20 black and minority ethnic professionals.

Those small details matter, lost as they are in the perennial storm of conversation about who’s signing where in the soon-to-be £5.1bn-a-season Premier League. But as the early sagas of the new campaign take hold – Jose Mourinho, the pantomime dame, at their centre again – the significant story of this week is the determination of the new FA chief executive, Martin Glenn, to restructure his organisation in a way which makes more of that investment possible, dispensing with the suits in favour of tracksuits.

“Lower payroll costs, to be blunt about it, so some fewer people,” as Glenn put it.

The financial gains will help develop the 30 “city hubs”, which will play the role that parks once did in the days before local authorities were emasculated.

It won’t make the England team great in the short or even medium term. But it will effect change. Slow-burn stories don’t tend to catch today’s news agendas. This one should.