When will football move from ‘making examples’ to ‘making real progress’?

By the time Tevez-gate comes to a painful, life-sapping, grinding end, West Ham will be hailed as the prime example of how NOT to conduct football transfers. Tevez will cost West Ham a further £10m over 5 years, and then there’s the possibility of a points deduction imposed by the Premier League.

But enough about Tevezgate, West Ham and Sheffield United, enough has been said in the last 2 years.

The English football authorities are masters at ‘setting’ grand examples, usually after the matter is long gone and common sense dictates that you let it go, but they do like to set examples. I wonder what they will take on next?

Here are five key issues, far more important to football than Tevezgate:

  • Lack of investment in grassroots football despite all the talking on the subject in the last decade – who will drag the FA to court for neglecting their duty to serve football in England?
  • The shocking lack of support for referees in decision-making – who will take FIFA to court (because its FIFA who vetoed goal-line tech on the last IFAB meeting) for dragging their feet on improving the standard of refereeing in football?
  • Do I even need to mention the corruption in FIFA?
  • The lack of regulation to prevent financial misconduct and worse, the propensity to punish the club and the fans instead of the owners / former owners / people who made the actual mess. The money in the game is not a problem, it’s a symptom of the changes sport in the world around us is going through. However, that’s no excuse to stupidly stand by and let things ‘go to hell’. Clubs can, and should be, run like businesses, but clubs as institutions need more support ‘before’ they make mistakes as opposed to afterwards.
  • The lack of accountability and responsibility shown by the FA, the Premier League and of course, FIFA and UEFA. UEFA is an excellent example – they won’t reduce their own profits by leveling the sporting field in Europe so they’re now trying to create financial restrictions in domestic leagues that a) help international football (which creates more interest in European Champions and the World Cup) and b) give European football a broader, slightly more unpredictable flavor while not changing things in the long run thanks to the glacial pace decisions are taken at this level.

    FIFA are too busy fighting the emergence of club football to tend to their core responsibilities, which includes improving the level of football in all member countries. The English authorities aren’t much better either, mind you.

These are serious, long-standing, structural issues with football that need to be sorted out today, not tomorrow. They lack the ‘glamour’ of football taking a stand against drugs or dubious transfers or, dare I say it, fighting Game 39 and money in the Premier League, but the combined weight of these issues is burdening a wonderful sport that meant to entertain, not torture its fans.

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