At last an FA chairman looks to take the bull by the horns and stand up for the English game. Greg Dyke looks willing to start the development and modernisation of the old-fashioned business-like ‘suit’ set-up currently at FA HQ. One issue which can be labelled at the FA , in recent times, is that they tend to be more reactive than proactive, however yesterday’s speech proved that Greg Dyke is a man with forward thinking, which will hopefully help foresee the ‘turning around’ of the “tanker”.
Previous FA Chairmen have refused to rock the boat and take on the Premier League, however Greg Dyke is different. In his first speech in the role the former BBC Director General pulled no punches into the current state of English football and outlined his vision for the National Team and development teams, with the expectations of reaching the Semi-Finals of the European Championships in 2020 and winning the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. He is also to see progress at Under-20 level by 2017 with that squad moving into the Under-21 Championships.
Dyke said that the speech was “not designed to start a ‘blame game'” and it was “not a criticism of the Premier League”, in which he was the driving force when Chief Executive of London Weekend Television in 1990, but it was a stark reality of the current predicament of English football, from top to bottom, was in. His main concern was surrounding the levels of coaching and the numbers when compared to fellow European countries.
England has 1,161 coaches at UEFA ‘A’ level compared with 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany. At pro licence level, England has 203 coaches, Spain 2,140 and Germany more than 1,000. This helps to prove one of the fundamental problems. Without coaches there is no chance of development. The better educated, the more quality coaches there will be in the pool of coaches to nurture the talent that we hope can be successful in the future. Here the point is that quality is more important than quantity. At grassroots level their still needs to be more coaches, but the main barrier stopping people from taking up the course is the cost initially and then the cost if they want to progress up the levels.
Another problem at the top-level is the increasing number of transfers of foreign players and lack of chances given to home-grown talent. During the recent transfer window only 25 of the 137 signings were English; clubs will argue they can fill positions in their squad quotas by buying cheaper talent from abroad. Blackpool were asking for a fee of around £9 million for highly thought of 21-year-old Tom Ince, this is a stumbling block for most clubs in the top flight who aren’t willing to take a hit on finances by risking expensive English talent when they have the chance to buy foreign players cheaper and with limited risk financially.
However at academy level the main question raised is ‘do players get too much too soon?’ A lot of the problems stem from the big money transfers and wages they are paid, which in most cases goes to their heads and allows them to buy flash motors and big houses; at that stage in their careers they don’t need that distraction and need more reason to focus on excelling their careers. The FA need to look at this and rectify the academy set-up to allow players more focus on the game and not on their luxury lifestyles.
This masterplan for the future will hopefully see progress at England development squad levels, as they expect better footballing standards at tournaments, this is because millions have been and will continue to be spent on facilities at St George’s Park to give England the best opportunity to succeed in the future. At academy level the FA should be supporting clubs to produce homegrown talent consistently and this should focus on a similar model to the one at Southampton, which constantly churns out some quality players. Hopefully clubs can learn and give English talent more a chance in their quotas alongside more roles in starting elevens.
Dyke finished by saying “I believe my job, as Chairman of The FA, is to ensure that the structures are in place to give future England teams the best possible chance of achieving success and that is what I intend to do.” His statement of intent bodes well for English football.