The FA's role in England's final reckoning
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
The script said; England triumph to heal the nation, to restore the Blighty Buzz, much as London 2012 did. Instead, carnage ensued around the capital.
Months of lockdowns with football behind closed doors, a divisive Brexit and an ongoing racial equality debate may have sewn the seeds for what played out at Wembley on Sunday, but the FA themselves have long been fertilising the country’s shaky ground when it comes to football. Scenes at the national stadium and around London as the toxic weeds sprouted grew our game and country. Up certain walk ways and down certain concourses, it looked like the world was ending.
Gareth Southgate’s England are being lauded as the most representative team this country has ever had. The FA are simply jumping on the bandwagon, a PR machine in full swing.
The game is administered by varying bodies in England; the Football League and Premier League run the home and away divisions, whilst the FA stands as a governing body. In the late eighties with the league and association at loggerheads, ITV’s Greg Dyke and a hand full of chairman bought and sold football for themselves, and with it a part of the game’s and the nation’s soul.
The eighties saw hooliganism and football disasters at it’s peak; the Bradford fire, Hillsborough, Heysel. All consequences of poor regulation and lack or institutional responsibility. Ground standards were dangerous and put fans at risk, and neither the FA or League did enough to ensure the Green Guide was being followed.
It took the FA 23 years to apologise to Liverpool fans for Hillsborough. The nation as a whole is due another one from them.
The stories emerging of Danish and Italian fans under attack at Wembley in the past few days, and entry gates coming under siege is devastating. The real seeds for these events, even if sewn unknowingly, was the nose removing face spiting role the FA played in the Premier League’s creation.
Better to stick one to the football league, right, than preserve the game and its values for all?
Since 1992, lower league clubs have been left behind, starved of the financial oxygen they need to both operate and be a central beacon of their communities.
Sir Bert Milichip’s ambivalence to the break away handed the game to a select few. They will never give it back and whilst it’s unlikely the FA will ever have the power to take it their hubris in telling the nation what is and isn’t acceptable around the treatment of players, even if they may be right, isn’t worth much.
England’s fiery parochialism, with it’s market, mining and manufacturing towns, doesn’t need much stoking. Premier League match days may be dominated with overseas tourists and the prawn sandwich brigade, but for many fans; they’ve been left in the past. For those who can’t afford to watch Premier League football, lower division games have a purity to them but it’s the clubs themselves who have been left to evolve their atmosphere in to safe, inclusive, family environments, abandoned by the FA’s under funding as a result of naivety around the Premier League’s formation.
Keys of cocaine on the fountain. Kicking ticketless supporters to the ground. Key board cowards abusing lads who are prepared to take the long walk to twelve yards out knowing the risk they invite, putting themselves in the firing line. It’s not good enough.
The social media brand of the FA is reflective of who they want watching England, not of the whole country itself. As the administrators and governors of the national game they have to do more.
The majority of the England squad who almost reached the international summit climbed to these new levels of a major tournament final through diverse, working class, determined values, instilled by their families, communities and tireless volunteers at grass roots junior level. The FA’s true contribution to generating this squad is nominal, yet they swift to take the credit for ‘their’ lads.
The government, through MP Tracey Crouch who is leading the research, are conducting a fan survey around regulation of the game. Whilst a step in the right direction, the findings and recommendations should be given to a non government appointed board to execute. After-all, this is the same political party who lambasted fans alone for the above mentioned disasters.
Sport, and football is no exception, is about winning and losing, humility and respect, success, failure, resilience. It is a reflection of life and so a reflection of society. Access to it is universal, equal for all.
Whilst the government can stand on the high street ticking off your thoughts on a clip board, it should not be trusted with the answers, especially this government, such is the level of hypocrisy around this England team and the national debate that has arisen around it’s view of racism and equality.
It’s too easy for the FA to say what is wrong in 280 characters and a picture. This England team has changed in terms of how it conducts itself, and it’s clear the FA have to follow suit with similar actions, not just words.