What Amess

24 Jul

WHEN Greg Dyke’s FA Commission came up with its ludicrous B-team plan a few months back, it was noted by most prominent commentators that the most important people did not have a voice. Neither Supporters Direct nor the Football Supporters Federation were considered as important to the future of our national game as Danny Mills.
With Dyke speaking in Parliament about the issue again earlier this week, it is concerning that once again an irrelevant voice has been raised above the rest, notably that of Southend West MP David Amess.
Lucky enough to be a Tory in an area where, unfortunately, you could turn a mop upside-down, put it in a suit and pin a blue rosette to its lapel and it would get voted in, Amess nonetheless is not a particularly popular MP amongst constituents. And his popularity is unlikely to be increased by banging on about his beloved west ham (he is an MP for SOUTHEND) in Westminster and calling for a boycott on Premier League games because there are too many foreigners.
Amess follows in the footsteps of politicians over the years who have spoken out and brought in legislation about a game they know little about and understand even less – who can forget the infamous ID card proposal of Thatcher’s day? The concern must be that the failure of the England team in Brazil will lead to the authorities panicking and making rash statements such as that made by Amess in the House of Commons without actually considering the real issues.
The Right Honourable Gentleman is addressing a symptom, rather than a cause, of the problems facing English football. Supporters will not boycott their teams – if true supporters of teams like Arsenal did that, their seats would just be filled by tourists. The players playing in the Premier League are the envy of the world and sell replica shirts and duvet covers from Tamworth to Timbuktu.
The simple fact is that it is not healthy to have two separate identities, the Premier League and the Football League, splitting the 92 clubs. Wealth distribution is the main factor in why English football has the problems it does now. The Premier League has no interest in ensuring money filters down to the Football League, and the Football League is powerless to stand up to the Premier League. The EPPP was brought in because the Premier League put a gun to the heads of the Football League by threatening to take away what little cash they do hand down. English football produces a lot of decent young players, but too many of them get lost in the void of 60 or 70-man squads of the top five or six most powerful clubs. They develop well until a certain age, then fail to fulfil their potential because of a lack of first-team football. Going on loan is only temporary and does not allow a player to settle.
There are 92 clubs in the Premier League and Football League combined (91 if you, like me, don’t consider the bastard MK Dons to be a legitimate club). The aim has to be to give all those clubs the appropriate facilities to develop good young players, so the promising youngsters don’t feel they have to join the queue at Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United to develop into quality players. Young English players brought through at Football League level, unfortunately, come with a heavy price tag. This is because, while Man Utd can afford to spend £300k per week on Wayne Rooney’s salary, lower league clubs are fighting for their lives and need every penny they can get. A fairer distribution of the TV cash, ring-fenced for coaches or upgrading training facilities, would allow clubs in the lower leagues to develop young talent. It would also lead to a more competitive league structure where the haves and have nots are not so polarised.
Dyke’s B-team plan has its heart in the right place but fails to acknowledge that it would destroy the very environment he wants to send these young players into. If Greg Dyke has ever sat through a reserve game I would be surprised – but I can tell him they are not fun to watch. Injecting a season full of half-hearted affairs in front of a scattering of fans into one of the most passionately supported leagues (the Football League) in the world is not the way to go about things. Trouble is, the alternative involves upsetting the money men, which obviously will never happen. Dyke needs to grow the balls to stand up to the Premier League or step aside for someone who will.


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