The Last Word: One word sums up the FA – weak

Incompetence is coming home as bungling officials keep making gaffes. Reform at the top is the only way forward

Somewhere deep in the heart of England, sitting unsighted in a disused quarry, is a production line churning out sporting figures. Alas, this is no footballing factory, no playmaking plant, no Messi manufacturer, no Cristiano construction. This belches out babies in blazers, who shake hands instead of rattles, grasp spreadsheets instead of teddies. And on their poor heads is stamped their destination. "FA," it says. "This way up."

And there you were, wondering where these people come from, these faceless, nameless characters who have removed the governing out of governing body. Barely 24 hours go by nowadays – never mind anything so long as a week – without some shambolic whiff emerging from Wembley. England's national sport is not football; the nation is not most naturally suited to the guile and style of the beautiful game. When it comes to producing bungling officials, England is simply without equal. Incompetence is coming home.

Where to start on the patrol of the fault line? The last month is as bad as any. These four weeks should rank with the most embarrassing in the Football Association's near 150-year history, certainly from a PR perspective. Even when they claim the moral high ground – with the corruption claims against Fifa – they find a posse of critics taking justifiable aim. Bizarrely, the good guys are also the hapless guys. It is like the Keystone Kops embarking on a clean-up crusade in Fort Apache The Bronx. It is difficult to be taken seriously when everyone is laughing at you.

Just think, this next week should be a time of immense pride and showcase for the FA, as their gleaming home hosts the Champions' League final, the club match of all club matches. Yet for those unfortunate souls employed to front their press operation, it will predominantly be about damage limitation than gain maximisation. Look around, gulp a breath, there are fires to be put out everywhere. Some small, some big, all destructive. If you spot a PR chap tackling a forest blaze with a B&Q extinguisher, then feel for him. He works for the FA.

Managers being fined for praising referees; tearful 11-year-old girls who are banned from playing with the boys being interviewed by Lorraine Kelly; the wrong names on the FA Cup flags... these are just the nonsensical head-scratchers which point to a deep systemic malaise. Even the politicians, those most hypercritical of mismanagers, feel able to target the organisation. So Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, can call football "the worst governed sport in the country" and everyone nods in agreement. Really, the Government should be hit by a hail of "you what?" whenever they dare pinpoint the spec in sport's eye. They should be told "keep your nose out, until you decide to fund sport properly, until you start to back up your grand statements with deeds". But they aren't and that proves the current state of the FA. One word sums them up: weak.

Weak in curbing any of the Premier League's worst excesses; weak when those Fifa blaggards made their World Cup demands; weak when caving in to Sky's wishes to play Premier League games on FA Cup final day; weak in every facet of the third-party ownership hearing against QPR; weak in each and every disciplinary they bring against managers and players in the futile attempt to uphold their weak Respect campaign. Again, this is not the total of their inadequacy, merely the recent examples, merely the latest indications of an association which plainly isn't working. The reason for repeated failure was written all across the staff survey leaked a few days ago in the Daily Mail.

Too many board members leaving, too many of these board members, in Robertson's words, fulfilling the FA stereotype "of being white, male and late middle-aged" featuring "nobody who has played the game to any reasonable level and no women nor anyone from the ethnic communities". They are out of touch and out of their depth. And so the gaffes go on and the miserable history repeats itself. The FA are desperate for a strong, merciless, respected hand, for a man at the helm who will make those damn turkeys vote for Christmas. Reform at the top is the only way forward.

But it shouldn't be too professionaland definitely not too corporate. As it is there is a gaping divide between the playing class and the ruling class. The relationship is at an all-time low and only integration will fix the problem. They need football men, proper football men, men with football in their brains and hearts. It sounds quaint but it shouldn't be.

Football is big business, but it is essentially football. So much of what the FA do focuses on the bottom line instead of what transpires on the important side of the touchline. It could be worse, they say, they could be Fifa. But hey, in certain respects it's better to be corrupt instead of incompetent.

At least, Blatter's self-interested tribe know what they are doing, however repulsive it may be. Yes, repulsive enough for the FA to refuse to back either Sepp Blatter or the equallydespicable Mohamed Bin Hammam. We can only pray the FA don't mess that up. Shouldn't be too difficult NOT to fill a form in, should it? After all, they haven't ticked any boxes of late. Why start now?

Agree or disagree? Email j.corrigan@independent.co.uk or leave your comment below

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Sport
footballLive blog: Follow the action from the Capital One Cup semi-final
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century