Published on July 29th, 2014 | by Bill
Cut the Crap: Time for the FA to Unite with Supporters
Saturday saw a surprise video message from Greg Dyke to the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct’s fans’ summit. The holidaying media mogul lectured the gathered supporters and grass roots activists on their own game while they sat in Wembley Stadium, that monument to corporatism and the FA, which had just shunned the FSF and SD in its “comprehensive” England Commission in May. Dysfunctional, much?
Let’s cut the crap. If Dyke is serious that “what the fans think in football really matters” then he should move swiftly to add a supporters’ delegate to the FA board. It’s obvious that the truly progressive voices do not come from the FA + Premier League (who have created a lucrative mini-industry from football dysfunctionality) but from the terraces and grass roots.
Dyke made the crass point that fans must offer their own ideas to counter his Commission instead of complaining. Well they have Greg, except they have not been listened to.
This can’t and won’t continue. It’s clear that the biggest issue facing football is the blocking of fan ownership of the sport by the professional clubs, league administration and the FA. Fans, be they groups such as supporters’ trusts who have stepped in to clear up the messes left by so called “football men” at failing clubs or organisers of Sunday League and youth football are being sold back a game they could organise themselves. All the while corporate sponsors like Barclays trade off of communal values, telling fans that they “are football”.
Dyke should put aside his B team obsession, sit down with Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation and tackle head-on the salient problem in English football. That is: a national sport organised in the interests of the power six Premier League clubs, who are pimped abroad and shaped into international monoliths to the sporting detriment of eighty-six other league teams, non-league, youth football and the National side. Indeed, in his video missive Dyke talked of the potential of successful English “leagues” having a negative effect on Roy Hodgson’s three lions team, obviously including the Championship and it £1 billion debt mountain in what he considers successful.
An immediate alliance of the FA, the FSF and SD would invigorate the sport, galvanising dynamic, progressive and radical voices in the supporters’ scene, laying the ground for key reforms such as fan ownership of clubs, safe standing, the wider distribution of TV monies, limited parachute payments, a loan system based on co-operation not control, ticket price and salary capping, a betting levy, and the repeal of the Elite Player Performance Plan. Such an understanding could produce a top-to-bottom review of coaching in England including close collaboration with European neighbours such as Holland and Germany and institute a Domesday Book audit of municipal grass pitches, with direct FA intervention to bring them up to a good standard. Moreover, linking FSF affiliated supporters’ trusts to County FA’s might improve diversity beyond the “overwhelmingly male and white” and change the mindset from the fixation that only male ex-footballers can make good coaches and that only executives drafted in from the media, legal and finance industries can possibly administer the sport.
Of course the fans will have to look at themselves too. It’s no use marching year on year with high ideals and few clear demands. No more talk of a “long road” to reform which was necessary yesterday. The FSF should become a straight-up supporters’ union, demanding a leading hand in, and transparent communication with, the FA. Supporters Direct should do what they do best; facilitate a sea change to fan ownership of clubs with protection from government and funding from a levy on football betting. Room too for an independent football integrity unit for to carry out a real fit and proper person’s test on those who wish to join supporters in ownership of clubs, clamp down on match fixing and close loopholes for those clubs who fly in the face of financial fair play measures.
The answer to the FA’s increasing irrelevance is there, so too the power to face up to the Premier League and its Wizard of Oz two man board: “football without fans is nothing” is the maxim of supporters, politicians and sponsors; it is high time Greg Dyke’s organization lived up to it. If, in ten years’ time the FA exists in its current bubble, hosting prestige lip-service summits in corporate suites, the FSF is still a benign pressure group and Supporters Direct’s fan ownership programme marginalised then they will have failed the sport and the supporters.
Photo Credit – Sandlanders Football