You wouldn’t have expected an outright condemnation straight away, would you? I mean, it would surely be asking too much for the FA to take one look at Scudamore’s Insane Plan For Global Domination and say, “You know, the only reason they’re doing this is to get even richer than they already are. They’ll give it the usual about the global market being important and how their legions of foreign supporters deserve a chance to see their heroes in action, but we all know that it’s about making even more money than they already do. Which is nice for them. However, they’re selling the fans of the game in their own country down the river, and chucking away the principle of league football – which, might we add, is one of the few truly great things that Victorian England gave the world – and they’re going to cause irreversible damage to our World Cup finals bid, so we’re going to nip it in the bud and tell them where to stick it. Especially David Gold”.
That would have been asking too much. However, I think that, as supporters who are ultimately powerless to prevent changes of this nature, we are entitled to little bit more than we got from the FA this afternoon. I know – I’m a hopeless idealist. The guardians of English football? Standing in the way of progress and the New World Order? Let’s have a look at what they said, and I would also ask you to remember that, in his initial statement to the press last week, Lord Triesman, the all-new chairman of the FA said, ““I am determined that our international and domestic relations must be sustained at the highest level, and I will not countenance any damage to those relations.”:
- “We’ve just had a long and a serious discussion of the Premiership’s proposal for a 39th game at The Football Association Board. We are still, as I said in Parliament, and I repeat there are still a lot of fundamental issues for us” – Right. Jolly good. Glad to hear that you don’t have any issue with this whatsoever, then.
- “There are serious problems of congestion in the season and I make it very clear that we would want to make sure that all of our own competitions can be played successfully, and that there isn’t the usual overstretch that you get at that time of year which can have an impact on the England side. And I am very clear that it does not impact on the England side.” – The problems with congestion in the season would be alleviated if the Premier League did as it once promised it would, and reduced its numbers to eighteen clubs. But that would miss two of them missing out at the trough, so that’s not going to happen. It might also be alleviated if the clubs didn’t jet off abroad every time on a marketing mission every they had a spare five days. Strangely, these never seem to contribute to fixture congestion, whereas the occasional League Cup match at Grimsby does.
- “Secondly, I think that we have to make sure that our international relationships are in good shape; there are very many reasons for that, and the 2018 World Cup is one of those reasons, and it is an important reason, but it is also true that we want to make sure we are working with international partners in a way that is effective” – Actually, the Premier League may already have caused irreversible damage to the 2018 World Cup bid with their insufferable arrogance in trying to colonise parts of the football world whose own infrastructures desperately need investment and support.
- “Third, there is bound to be continuing concern about whether the 39th game would change the symmetry of the competition or would introduce unfairness as it is perceived in the competition. We’d be concerned with any competition that we are responsible for, in the sense that we sanction competitions, that had that impact” – Well, it’s not really “concern”. It’s “knowledge”. It’s 120 years of a format which is fearsomely simple and works. We already know that it will change the symmetry of the game and, to be frank, we don’t need you to hold working parties for two years to tell us that.
- “And, it’s a slightly different order of things but it’s also significant, it’s important to see that we’re in a very difficult climate; people are very hostile and we’ve seen a great deal of that. We have to need to try to ensure that the football family as a whole feels more content with any proposal going forward” – Firstly, please stop calling it “the football family”. If it is a “family”, it’s even more dysfunctional than the royal family. Secondly, if you oppose the idea, you don’t have to “try to ensure that the football family as a whole feels more content with any proposal going forward”. If you are against it, you should oppose it, and not recommend to UEFA or FIFA.
- “I summarise the points in the following way: at the moment we have not seen a sustainable plan to which we can agree. If the Premiership has things that it wants to say about changes or new variants, well then come forward. But personally I’d prefer it sooner rather than later because I don’t want this to drift on particularly as we launch our World Cup bid” – Umm, it’s not called “The Premiership” any more, but how are you to know? After all, you’re only the Football Association. But I digress. The World Cup bid has already been launched, hasn’t it? Whether it has or hasn’t, it’s going to ruin it.
- “In general, I think uncertainty is not very helpful going on for any length of time, but that’s a matter for them, they will conclude whether they have got anything else that they want to say and we will always do them the courtesy of listening and thinking about it, and asking the right questions, and trying to make sure we have understood the detail” – Well, that’s just bland platitudes, isn’t it? I mean, that’s just a very long sentence that doesn’t actually say anything, isn’t it?
- “That’s what I want to say about the meeting we have just had, where I think there was a great deal of convergence right across our part of the football family about the issues” – There’s that phrase again!
There isn’t a great deal more to say on the subject than what I’ve put above, and that’s because the FA didn’t say much this afternoon. It’s all just bluster and marketing speak. Spin. Whatever teeth the FA showed in their initial statement has already been watered down into “we’ll see”. All the Premier League has to do now is water down this (obviously unworkable) scheme, and the FA will support them. Be warned – they’re going to sell us down the river here. They just haven’t got the balls to come straight out and say it.