Accountability and football in England go together like Michael Bolton’s voice and opera: badly.
You can count on one finger the amount of people who are accountable to lovers of the beautiful game and even then you’d struggle to work out who. There are those who should be accountable, but they wriggle under so many protective layers of self interest that to find them is nigh on impossible.
How has it come to this? Football is a national treasure and it could be argued the national treasure. Why do we treat it so badly? The answer lies in corridors and rooms you have no access to.
There’s a chance that those in power are accountable to the government, but the lines are so hazy that it’s pointless debating whether they are or not. And in any case, what use would it be if they were? The stark fact is that the controllers of football seem so detached from the hopes, fears and demands of fans that the game is in danger of being choked to death. Inviting letters isn’t really enough, is it?
Accountability is more than just listening to the ‘voices’ of fans. It is about justifying what you have done and what you intend to do. When was the last time a man in a suit representing football appeared to have interests other than his own beyond the soundbites and fluff? Is it time for the leaders of football to be voted in? Absolutely!
At FC Barcelona the fans decide who runs the club. It hasn’t always avoided self interest at the top, but it has put the power of choice into the fans hands. Only recently the vote-of-no-confidence against Joan Laporta flexed Barca’s muscle of democracy brilliantly, no matter how misguided it was. It proved that the President was only as powerful as the bloke with a cold hot dog squeezed into one of the stadiums plastic seats. Presidencies of Barca have to keep on top of things if they want to keep running the club. Complacency is beaten down. The result is a slick machine that rarely fails.
This is exactly how it should be at the FA. In fact, this is definitely how it should be at FIFA too. Why do men with agendas you have no control over decide the destiny of the people’s game? What right do they have to make decisions on your behalf? The answer is none. These bodies have become untouchable blimps. A voted-in President and board is the future.
Where this utopia of a democratically empowered world game falls apart is in the reality of actually changing the status quo. No one at the FA or FIFA is actually going to tear up the statutes and break down the walls of comfort, are they? Also, who is going to challenge them? A mass rebellion could seal it, but that just isn’t going to happen. Somebody like Franz Beckenbauer, Pele or Bobby Charlton could maybe bring the house down if they really wanted to, but that’s not likely – is it?
Sepp Blatter could go from zero to hero in a day if he took the bull by the horns and burned the big FIFA book of how-it-is and turned football’s governing body into a democratic operation. He won’t and neither will whoever is in charge at the FA. The same old plodding organisations will keep voting themselves in until the end of time. They could argue that they represent the professional game and therefore are out of reach from the minions, but without the minions, there would be no professional game.
Back in the days when football was being devised and created it needed a unilateral decision making process simply to become established. These were the days when men wore pocket watches, morning coats and saluted the empire. There is no denying that The FA and FIFA were visionary projects that have given so many positives, but that was then.
Now they need to adapt if football is to grow. The Internet means that we are all better informed and can make instant choices. We are in a position to dictate how our game develops. WE are a real and vibrant part of the equation. We should be able to decide who runs the game we love, shouldn’t we?
Until we can, listening to the powers-that-be dictate the way our game grows (or not) will continue to be just as excruciating as listening to Michael Bolton murder opera. Can we keep our fingers in our ears forever and pretend it isn’t happening?