Sam Wallace: English football must look to put its own house in order and set an example to all at Fifa
Talking Football: One of the ExCo's few legitimate criticisms of the FA was that it was hard to deal with a body without a chief executive or chairman, after they had both quit
Monday 06 December 2010
The final indignity for the 2018 bid team on Friday came when their flight home from Zurich was cancelled. They were re-booked on to another, which meant that a few people who had not seen an economy seat in a long time had to sit in steerage with the rest of us.
Fabio Capello occupied himself with the "sudoku difficile" in the Corriere della Sera. David Dein tried to keep spirits up despite having had about three hours' sleep in the previous 48. Roger Burden reflected on how the last day had changed forever how he felt about football and his ambitions to be chairman of the Football Association.
As we stood at the luggage carousel, one of the senior members of the 2018 bid, a good man with an enviable ability to stay cheerful in the most difficult times, said to me: "You know what I will remember about this in years to come? That for a short period of time, even if it was just a few days, we managed to unite the whole of English football behind this bid. That was a good thing."
That comment sticks in my mind as I reflect on what has been an appalling week for English football at the end of a dreadful year for the FA. For a few days last week, during that giddy time when we naively thought that the Fifa executive committee (ExCo) might give us the World Cup, we barely stopped to notice that the whole of English football was pulling together.
The Premier League, the Football Association, the Football League, the clubs, the players and the managers – like Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp, who cannot stand one another but who both made memorable contributions to the bid's key promotional video – all stepped up to the mark.
The grassroots of football were represented too, most notably in the performance of Eddie Afekafe, but also in the way that the host cities – from London, Manchester and Liverpool to Plymouth and Milton Keynes – harnessed the enthusiasm and creativity of English people to show what a World Cup would mean to England.
They pulled together. Then we lost. So what now? Do we just forget that, for a while, Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, Lord Mawhinney, the former Football League chairman, the FA and the government were on the same side – and go back to the usual bickering?
In the aftermath of Russia's victory, there was much talk about how Fifa had to reform, about how concentrating all the power into the hands of 24 (currently 22) ExCo men, with their private agendas, alliances and grudges, was no way to decide the host of a World Cup. Undoubtedly, that is the case – but there is a problem.
How can English football tell Fifa to reform when it has so many internal rifts itself? It places itself in a very weak position to call for change on the ExCo – a faint hope at best, anyway – when the FA and the Premier League themselves have been at loggerheads so many times.
The ExCo's flaws are different to that of English football – not least the dark mutterings about how they were "persuaded" to give a World Cup to a tiny emirate with no football culture and 45-degree-plus summers – but it does behove English football to put its own house in order as it demands others do the same.
One of the few legitimate criticisms the ExCo made of the FA over the last year was that it was difficult to deal with an organisation without a chief executive or chairman, who both quit in the space of two months. Burden was forced to visit Michel Platini, the Uefa president, to explain the FA's power structure under his temporary stewardship.
The process to appoint a new FA chairman should be completed by the end of the month and the new FA chairman comes into English football at a pivotal time. What he does in the next five years could contribute to changing our game monumentally for the better.
Thursday's vote and the recriminations in the aftermath were clearly a Suez moment for English football. But what next? Does the game go on producing fewer and fewer good young English players? Does the success of the elite clubs feel even further removed from the failures of our national team?
The new FA chairman cannot afford to go to war with the Premier League in the way that his predecessor, Lord Triesman, once did. Equally, he cannot allow FA board meetings to be dominated by Dave Richards' strops. He must not permit his 147-year-old organisation to slip into irrelevance.
The new chairman must fight to appoint a strong FA executive – which means a chief executive and specialist directors who are not buffeted by every mood from the professional and amateur elements that make up the FA board.
It has to be an executive that takes soundings but ultimately makes decisions of its own. One that has expertise in financial, commercial and television rights matters and that can be the recognisable faces of English football in Uefa, Fifa and across the world. An executive that is not slave to the thousand different voices at the FA.
It is a big challenge but, as last week proved, it is not impossible. And a well-run, successful, united English football would be the best possible rebuke to the self-interest and greed of Fifa.
Platini should play by his own rules and reveal his vote
Uefa president Michel Platini has always been big on transparency, especially when it comes to the finances of English football clubs. So, as the president of our federation, it is inconceivable that he would not want to tell us who he voted for as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.
If, as has been suggested, he voted for Qatar for 2022 then that really is an extraordinary state of affairs for a man who has insisted that clubs should not buy success. If, on top of that, he was asked to do so by Nicolas Sarkozy, he should tell us how else the French president might have advised him in his capacity as Uefa president.
Discontent at City appears a case of smoke and fire
This column has long been a keen collector of the time-honoured, and by no means unconvincing, stock excuse that clubs give for a public ruck between their players and/or manager. It normally takes, roughly speaking, the following form: "There's nothing to worry about. It's just our players showing their great passion for the club to succeed."
Manchester City have now used this excuse twice in two days – Balotelli/Boateng and Tevez/Mancini – and I have lost count of the number of reliably sourced "Adebayor training-ground bust-up" stories I have read this season. City continue to tell us that their competitive spirit floweth over. Or could it just be that a lot of people there don't like one another?
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