Let’s try to look at this logically. Football is a big business in the UK (BSkyB’s humungous profits depend on it, almost entirely).
We have a very expensive Premier League of high-performing clubs, some of whose players are English.
The finances of the England team depend on the willingness of supporters and commercial backers, sponsors, to keep coughing up money in what, increasingly, seems like a lost cause.
It’s been ’46 years of hurt’ and counting since England won a major competition (the World Cup at home in 1966). Since then the best we’ve done is a semi-final in Italia 90 (lost on penalties) and a semi in Euro 96 (at home, lost the same way).
So the record is crap isn’t it? But that hasn’t stopped the Football Association, which is still running the game despite oodles of evidence showing that it’s completely incompetent and clueless, fucking things up yet again.
Its latest folly is sacking England manager Fabio Capello for saying on Italian TV that he disagreed with the FA’s unilateral decision to strip Chelsea’s John Terry from the England captaincy because he is due to appear in court to answer a charge of racist abuse against QPR’s Anton Ferdinand (brother of his former England defensive partner, and predecessor as captain, Rio Ferdinand).
Now you can argue until the cows home about whether or not Terry, who has lots of previous bad behaviour on his record (not that he’s unique in this among Premier League footballers) should be captain or, indeed, in the team at all. But that’s a job for manager Capello, who the FA used to think was worth a staggering £6m a year.
Capello thinks that Terry is innocent until proven guilty, which indeed he is. The FA panjandrums, headed by chairman David Bernstein, a not especially successful chairman of Manchester City in the past, clearly disagree.
And now Bernstein (pictured) has forced a showdown with Capello over some mild remarks expressing his disagreement with the FA’s decision made to Italian TV. All it needed was someone from the FA to say ‘that’s OK, it’s just Fabio’s view’ when the story broke and they’d probably have patched things up. Even so, they were wrong to undermine Capello in the first place.
So where does this leave Bernstein and the FA? Up shit creek without a paddle is the short answer; they’ve got a not very convincing team (sans Wayne Rooney for the first two matches) going to the Euro finals in the summer without a manager. With lots of compensation for Capello to be argued about as well. And an angry Fabio spilling the beans to all and sundry, no doubt.
Plus some extremely perilous FA finances which depend on keeping £700m Wembley Stadium full for England friendly matches. And these perilous finances depend to a large extent on commercial sponsors coughing up huge amounts of money. Any sensible company would run a mile, presented with an offer like this.
This latest disaster is the result of a not very competent body, the FA, trying to deal with an admittedly difficult issue with too close an eye on what the press says, in particular prominent sports columnists like the Independent’s James Lawton and the Mail on Sunday’s Patrick Barclay whose job it is to occupy the supposed moral high ground.
But you can’t run a big enterprise on the basis of ‘why oh why’ headlines.
We’ve said here before that the running of the English national team should be handed over to Peter Scudamore and his mates at the Premier League. We may not like them very much but at least they know what they’re doing.
As for the England football team, maybe Tottenham’s Harry Redknapp, acquitted of tax evasion charges at Southwark Crown Court today, will be asking wife Sandra (who deals with all the money and stuff according to ‘Arry) to book him a hotel in the Ukraine.
But it’s a horrible old mess. Only the English do this.