Connect in the back of the net

When the FA chairman Greg Clarke appears in front of MPs later this month amid accusations of failure in football governance, it may be worth exploring just how we got to this point.

From the disaster of Roy Hodgson and Euro 2016 to left-back Danny Rose accepting Alan Shearer’s assessment England are now a laughing stock on the national football scene, via Sam Allardyce being recorded offering advice how to navigate the rules of his own employers over a pint of wine at a Chinese restaurant.

Quite what the culture, sport and media select committee will ascertain from Clarke, who has only been in his post for just over a month after moving from his position of head of the Football League is uncertain, but any attempt to delve into why the FA have not pressed ahead with the series of reforms it has previously promised is more than welcome.

“In practice very little has changed: the governance of football is cumbersome, and power lies with the clubs, especially in the Premier League”, read a piercing statement from the Commons, “real reform in relation to the ownership of clubs, transfers of players, the influence of fans, the role of agents and investment in the grassroots – amongst other issues – has stalled.”

As the videos and reports of Allardyce emerged it was hard to disagree with that view.

“Obviously the big money’s here said Allardyce whilst the undercover camera rolled and he was willing, with the FA bafflingly unable to prevent such a party from getting such access to their man, to plunge his hand into the pie.

Chasing a £400k fee for advising whom he believed to be foreign investors after just starting a job for which he would receive £3 million a year saw his position become untenable after last year’s string of redundancies and the recent restructuring programme that left the governing body £12 million worse off.

Though the former Bolton manager had done little wrong, he had experience of dealing with the now-banned third-party ownership rules when signing Enner Valencia for West Ham and Manchester United also dealt with them when signing Marcos Rojo- he mentions that he would just be giving advice to apparent investors- it dealt a massive blow to the FA’s already wounded image and he was swiftly removed from his dream job after holding it for just 67 days.

The revelations in the Telegraph continued with Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino filmed suggesting the firm could become shareholders in his club in return for a portion of his player’s sell on fees.

Pino Pagliara, an Italian football agent, previously banned for the game for match-fixing and who has close ties to Cardiff City’s owner Vincent Tan was also involved, saying he knew of eight Premier League managers who were involved in corruption and the practice of taking bungs, revelations he later said were made up.

Both Tan and Cellino have run their respective clubs tyrannically since passing the FA’s feeble ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ test and as they continue to sack managers and bleed their clubs dry of profit, the authorities remain powerless to do anything.

Clubs like Blackpool, Blackburn, Coventry, Leyton Orient and Charlton all lie mired in the ruin of dubious ownership as the FA, with the buck passed to the hapless Football league, more interested in its own image and rebranding then the safeguarding of its own clubs, stays passive and silent, forking out £3.55 million to jettison Allardyce from the job Martin Glenn, chief executive of the FA, sensationally admitted back in June he has no idea how to fill.

Gareth Southgate, on a four game temporary basis, is the latest man to try his shoes in the role and though one suspects, given his experience with the under-21s, he may be a continuum of Hodgson when it comes to major tournaments, they can do a lot worse than turn to the assiduous, determined coach who has been ingrained in the England set-up for the past 3 years.

Though it does reveal both a paucity of English coaches and typically muddled thinking that the FA are entertaining the availability of RB Leipzig’s Ralf Rangnick after Clarke has previously stated “we want someone who has an understanding of English football.”

The search for a long-term successor to Allardyce will go on but his demise should serve as a reminder to the FA, for so long dominated by a squadron of old white men wedded to arcane methods and practices, it is in urgent need of reform.

These problems were identified by Lord Burns a decade ago but Greg Dyke, who left his chairmanship in the summer, is the latest casualty in the list of those who have tried to force through reforms.

While the dinosaurs on the FA board have been busy wrapped up in their sensitivities enough to hit Burnley’s Andre Gray with an unreasonable four game ban for homophobic comments he made 4 years ago, or investigating independent board member Heather Rabbatts for having the temerity to question the neglectful and ignorant way it treated Eva Carneiro’s case against Jose Mourinho at Chelsea last year, they have failed to maintain a grip on the game they are supposed to govern.

Whilst the protocol committee spends its time debating the Wembley wine list, the archaic governing body has failed to keep tabs on the Premier League as it swelled itself into the huge global cash-cow it has now become, creating a vacuum for the unscrupulous money-men that tag along for the journey.

Clarke will have to heed the lessons and find the answers to the questions that will be put to him by MPs, and the FA will have to find a way of reaching the 21st century by tightening a grip on unruly agents and club owners. If they fail to do so then Allardyce won’t be the last England manager being brought down by his own greed.

Away from the off-field events that engulfed Allardyce, England captain Wayne Rooney was in a reflective and honest mood as he spoke on Tuesday about the 61 year old’s only match in charge.

Rooney took exception to Allardyce’s claim that he could not tell the Manchester United man where to play.

“I played exactly to instructions, and what was asked of me. I’ll play wherever the manager wants me” he said– and that the now-former manager apologised for the comment on the plane home.

It was a startling response to an already bizarre comment, reminiscent of the shambolic thinking that saw the roof cave in on Hodgson’s reign.

England need a decisive manager able to make big decisions with clarity, while Rooney’s words portrayed the complete opposite.

Maybe England are fortunate to see the back of Allardyce, even if it has cost them a fortune and a huge chunk of its dignity.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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