The Last Word: This is what Greg Dyke should do

If the FA Commission’s forthcoming report is to prove meaningful, it must embrace radical reform

Listen carefully and it is possible to hear football’s tectonic plates shifting. The word is that Greg Dyke’s much-derided Football Association Commission will report in early April, assuming Mars is in alignment with Venus and the appropriate forms have been completed in triplicate.

Radical thought and decisive action would be out of character for an organisation so risk-averse that they employ unfeasibly expensive management consultants to ask perfectly obvious questions about the future of English football.

But if Dyke’s initiative is to prove relevant, reaching the following conclusions would help to avoid the traditional critical mauling.

Scrap the Under-21 League

This will dent the Premier League’s corporate ego, because the Under-21 competition forms part of their £340 million Elite Player Performance Plan, but the problems of transition, facing players aged between 18 and 21, are becoming critical.

Clubs, managers and coaches are in open revolt, arguing that so-called development football lacks the intensity and authenticity of the real thing. Some want to  re-establish a Reserve League, in which young players are schooled by senior pros. Others want to make more profound changes.

Show them the money

One committee member has brutal clarity on the central issue: “The way to get things done in the Football League is through money. The Premier League have the money to get what they want.” The bigger picture involves sustainable short-term sacrifice for a longer-term goal.

Despite its lofty pretensions, EPPP is based on greed: the biggest clubs accumulate the best young players for the lowest possible price. This must be revised for other changes to be sanctioned.

An increase in compensation fees, to £40,000 for each year a boy has been nurtured at another club’s academy between the ages of nine and 16, would do the trick.

Feeder clubs: the payback

Brace yourself. The clamour for feeder clubs in the lower divisions is growing to the point of irresistibility. The weakness of the Football League’s leadership will result in one of the most fundamental cultural shifts in the game since the abolition of the maximum wage.

The system already operates implicitly: Swindon Town’s links with Tottenham are increasingly indivisible. Progressive League One clubs, like Brentford and MK Dons, are highly regarded by the likes of Liverpool and Everton for the quality of coaching and intensive feedback that their loanees receive.

Outlaw loans in Premier League

The current system emphasises the inherent inequalities of the Premier League. The case of Ryan Bertrand, farmed out to Aston Villa by Chelsea, underlines the trend for secondary clubs, whose ambitions begin and end with the avoidance of relegation, to be regarded as finishing schools or shop windows for the elite.

Tactical loans are in vogue, encouraged by agreements, tacit or contractual, that a loanee will not play against his parent club. It is uncompetitive, essentially unfair. 

Romelu Lukaku, for instance, will have maximum opportunity to damage Chelsea’s rivals before the end of the season without discomfiting John Terry & Co.

Reinvent youth football as a summer game

Mid-winter football on primeval parkland swamps encourages disillusion, even on the rare occasions local councils deem their pitches fit for play. With the grassroots game trapped in a cycle of decline, a radical approach is essential.

The FA should reschedule the youth football season between April and October. This will enable young players to develop technically on better surfaces, and provide a better environment for measured coaching. The accent would be on education and enjoyment, not endurance.

Insist on young players signing a social contract

Model professionals like Frank Lampard share the consensual view that emerging players are over-indulged, and under-appreciative of the opportunities presented to them. Old-school traditions, such as boot cleaning and dressing-room domesticity, represent a rite of passage which breeds respect.

There is a broader context to the need for self-discipline, however. All players offered a scholarship at 16 should be contractually committed to working, for at least one day a week, in a club-run community scheme. Exposure to social and economic reality will help to redress the sense of entitlement which defines the modern prospect.

Pressurise the politicians to tighten work permits

Quotas to stem the flow of mediocre foreign imports would be ideal but remain impractical. The FA must continue to seek to operate proactively with the Home Office to revise current legislation dealing with players from outside the European Union.

Admitting players from the top 30 ranked nations, rather than the top 70, would tighten the process, as would an edict that they should have featured in 90 per cent of full international squads over a minimum two seasons prior to an application. Permits should be granted for two years instead of three.

And finally... restructure the Football Association

This is where the fun would really start. The FA cannot campaign for far-reaching change without fundamentally changing themselves.

All senior employees, from Alex Horne, the ludicrously overpaid general secretary, downwards should be obliged to re-apply for their jobs as part of a transparent restructuring process.

The regional associations and the FA Council should be given no option but to end decades of resistance and prevarication. They must be streamlined as a matter of urgency.

Handing over disciplinary cases to an independent body would also enable the FA to be a more effectively focused organisation.

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

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?