The people at the Football Association are, according to Harry Redknapp, ‘clueless’. Well, if I didn’t need reminding then my reading of a book, FA Confidential: Sex, Drugs and Penalties. The Inside Story of English Football written by David Davies, the ex-Executive Director of the FA, with Henry Winter, chief football correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, brought it into sharper focus this week. Davies is admirable and appeared to be different from the usual ‘blazers’ (as he often refers to his colleagues), if the things he states he was for and against during his time at the FA’s headquarters in Soho Square are true. But all those good deeds and intentions were eclipsed by his ludicrous decision to appoint Prince William as president of the FA – a classic case of ‘‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’’
He says at numerous points in the book that his intention when first entering the world’s oldest football association in 1994 was to bring them into the 21st century. But all the hard work during his 12 years there in driving towards that goal, and in some ways achieving it, were made redundant in wanting and making an unqualified person with not that great a knowledge of the game its president. Mind you, this is what the FA have been doing since 1939 when they appointed The Earl of Athlone in the same position. Since then it has been a long succession of people appointed by name and not by merit with Duke after Duke after Duke along with a non-football affiliated Earl in between being appointed for bad measure.
Prior to 1939, FA presidents were heavily involved in the game, coming up with new ideas that helped transform it into the one we know and love today. They were further ahead in their time than Davies and his predecessors; who simply appointed someone for their name alone. Dismantling this state of affairs should have been one of the first things Davies addressed when getting the job as Executive Director. He could have tried harder to get someone else in whether it be an ex-footballer or someone with a heavily vested interest in the game. Instead, he did the complete opposite.
In an opening extract from the chapter, ‘Blue Bloods and No. 10s’ in FA Confidential, he says, ‘‘over several months, I had visited the Royal Household to talk through who might be available to become president.’’
Apart from heritage, why would the Royal Family – not known for their love of football – be the first or last port of call when looking for a president to run the sport’s affairs?
‘We are very keen to have one of the young Royals,’ I said to Sir Michael Peat, Prince Charles’s private secretary. Both William and Harry, particularly William, had shown an enthusiasm for football.’’
Millions of others have shown an enthusiasm for football, and a lot of them have more sense, business or otherwise, than a man who refuses to acknowledge that he’s going bald (see comb over). I know what you’re thinking, ‘Prince Charles’s private secretary got a knighthood?! Well I never.’ Back to Davies.
‘‘In the interim, Prince Andrew was given the position.’’
Ah, Prince Andrew, that lover of all things St. Tropez.
‘Doesn’t he just like golf?’ someone at the FA remarked. Andrew had this public image of running around the world, playing golf and having a good time, but he was easy to get on with.’’
I would be too, David, if I was swanning around the globe playing golf and relaxing on boats surrounded by a bevy of mates and random beauties. It gets better, folks.
‘‘He never had a great knowledge of football but he was interested in what the FA did.’’
Well, that’s all right then. I’m interested in what pilots do, so hopefully the next time I’m on a flight, they will let me take control of the plane on landing. If they think I’m mad then I will remind them of the logic of David Davies, a man who looks like the zombie in one of the first scenes from the PlayStation game, Resident Evil.
He went on to say that ‘‘William sat in on one of Trevor Brooking’s youth-development presentations. I hoped he understood!’’
I gather that the exclamation mark was designed to imply that he doesn’t mind whether the president of the football association has a clue about one of the most important aspects of the FA’s current and future plans. Get a real football person in there and there’ll be more scope for ideas
The FA have come up with some worthwhile initiatives. Whether William himself had any part to play in any of them should be as mysterious to the world as Miley Cyrus’s tongue i.e. not much, which means, yes, he did not have any role to play in their ideas. Much like his grandmother does in giving permission for another sod to bugger up the country in making the poor poorer and the rich richer – as long as he or she doesn’t resort to feeding any of us paupers to some big cats in London Zoo because that would be seen as going ‘too far’ – I suspect the people at the FA discuss and dissect ideas, come to the conclusion that they’re right and just run it by Wills who hasn’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about, but says ‘yes’ to them just in case it ‘might be worth doing’. That’s if they even run it by him at all, which would make his role even more pointless.
No doubt Davies and his bigwigs at the FA all thought the mere sight of William’s presence on the bidding committee would persuade other countries to vote for England in holding the 2018 World Cup Finals in this country, although seeing as many people from overseas look at the Royals in much the same way as we view Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy and co, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when his mere being there didn’t yield extra votes. I think England deserved a fairer crack at hosting another World Cup, especially with the infrastructure being already in place, but maybe other countries can see through our authorities’ cheap attempts in wheeling out members of the Royal Family in the hope of gaining votes based on that premise.
Some of Davies’ well-meaning intentions to bring the FA up to date with the modern world worked, but like many people in this country, when it comes to Royalty, he is blinded and acts like an over joyous, sycophantic puppy that is enthralled with its owner. At least cared for puppies have a reason. He and others don’t seem to realise that they are being extremely backward in bowing down to someone – literally or otherwise – in giving them jobs for the sake of who they are and not what they can do.
Whatever the president of the FA serves to football it would be far more worthwhile for the sport if he or she knew the game, not make a joke about hoping they understood what an important address one of its most important members was making regarding a focal point such as youth-development. They have made some progress since the 1930s, but it could potentially be so much more if the presidents themselves were of the ilk of those early pioneers such as Arthur Pember, Ebenezer Cobb Morley, Francis Marindin, Arthur Kinnaird, Charles Clegg and William Pickford; all of whom were heavily involved in the game before and during their presidency. If the FA had not been so obsessed with having a member of Royalty at the helm then Davies’ desire to bring them into the 21st century may have happened much sooner. That’s if it’s happened at all. Basically, the FA need to look back to go forward and appoint a president, ex-footballer or not, that cares and knows about the game substantially more than a sperm who was lucky enough (lucky in terms of privileges, not sure about the horsey looks) to reach the womb and beyond of someone who was in the Royal Family. ‘‘I just don’t think they’re qualified’’ says Redknapp of many people who work at the FA. And that sentiment certainly resounds when referring to Prince William. If they are really serious about the English game then they need to get someone else in. And QUICK.
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