POLITICAL FOOTBALL: STEPFORD WIVES SET FOR SILVERWARE
There used to be three major trophies In English football: the League title, the FA Cup and the League Cup. Whether the FA Cup or the league was the most important really depended on whether you were In England or not.
But how can the FA Cup be regarded as a major (trophy) if most of the players in most of its games do not start league games at professional level?
Two non league teams in the last 16 of this season’s competition tells its own story.
As a Leeds United fan I know a lot about being on the wrong end of Cup upsets. But cup upsets and the romance of the cup etc, mean the higher ranked club fielding its strongest available team and being beaten as a result of hostile crowds, dodgy pitches, bad luck and a lenient referee failing to keep an over physical opposition in check. The giants were never outplayed by the minnows in football terms.
On 30th January 2017, in keeping with the modern day FA cup, Leeds United turned up at Sutton United with a team which was mongrel of its second team and youth team players and they were outplayed on an artificial surface. The players had never played together (if Leeds were going to rest the first team, then why not put out the same “weakened” side that they fielded in Round 3 against Cambridge United?) It looked as if they hadn’t prepared on an artificial surface either – an allegation denied by the club.
Brighton and Hove Albion and Newcastle United also fielded weak sides and deservedly lost to non league Lincoln City and Oxford United respectively. Newcastle went down without so much as a whimper. The reason most cited by pundits for clubs fielding weak teams in the FA Cup is “it’s because the league is priority”. But is there more to it than that? I ask because 1) The league always was priority. 2) Whilst weakened sides are also fielded in the League Cup, the practice is not as extensive as in the FA Cup. 3) If you look at the League table, Newcastle, Brighton and Leeds’ destinies for this season are pretty much cemented. Newcastle and Brighton will be promoted and Leeds will be in the play offs. It may be the case that a couple of extra games in the FA Cup can cost 3-4 league points, but all three clubs can afford to drop those points. Additionally a cup run brings in extra revenue. And if avoiding extra games is so important, then surely by not fielding the full team against lower league clubs, the higher ranked clubs increase the chances of a draw and a replay. That’s what happened to Liverpool in Round 3 against Plymouth Argyle, and it very nearly happened to Tottenham who got a 97th minute winner against Wycombe Wanderers in Round 4.
So I suggest there is much more to it than “league priority”. The reserve leagues were undermined and subsequently disbanded so how do the coaches get a chance to assess the strength of their non first team players in competitive matches? Maybe the FA Cup presents such an opportunity.
There is little doubt in my mind that an increasing number of clubs increasingly regularly disrepect the FA Cup. And the reason could be as simple as this: it deserves to be disrespected. Contrary to the propaganda we are increasingly being bombarded with in all walks of life, respect, surely, needs to be earned. The onus is on those who want to be respected to earn that respect. Does the FA deserve respect from those within the game and the fans? It does increasingly little which is related to football these days, and has apparently become an arm of Government, preaching and imposing politically correct doctrine on players, fans coaches and administrators alike. Ironically amongst these is a “Respect” Campaign.
And why, when the “crisis” of the sexual abuse of youth players came up, did the FA start saying “this is the greatest crisis we’ve faced and we hope that we don’t have to pay compensation because that money could otherwise be invested in 3G pitches in communities”? There are a number of things wrong with that statement. If ABC United of Division 4 in 1975 had a coach who was sexually abusing youth players, why should the FA be paying compensation? Why not the coach, the club, or at a stretch, the football league? What does it have to do with the FA? (Those of you who know your so called “New World Order” may find it interesting perhaps that Ed Smethurst http://www.edwardsmethurst.co.uk/ is getting involved here.) http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/football-sexual-abuse-scandal-crewe-alexandra-lawyer-a7456691.html His name has come up before http://gerrymccan-abuseofpower-humanrights.blogspot.com/2016/01/new-film-by-richard-d-hall-when.html
And as for artificial surfaces, they produce something which, however good you think it may or may not be, is a different sport from football. Hardly conducive to the stuff of FA Cup legend. Going back to the Sutton/Leeds tie, there is little doubt that had it been a grass pitch, the Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri would have reached the ball before Sutton’s Maxime Biamou in the incident which led to the only goal of the game. What has torn the heart out of community football is not lack of unnatural pitches. It’s the commercialisation and politicisation of the sport and its authorities like the FA.
The Premiership runs the Premiership and the Football League runs the football league. The FA, whose cup, we used to be told would never be sponsored, whilst whingeing occasionally about clubs disrespecting it, hardly helps its cause by moving the traditional kick off time of the final around to suit global TV, and allowing the ties preceding the final to be scattered about like confetti: again for TV purposes.
In Guernsey where I live, we’re quite lucky because the elephant is the same size but the room is smaller, so it’s easier to spot. So the FA doctrine is in our faces here through the Guernsey FA (whose website is infested with commercial ads). Here is the text of a letter which the Guernsey Press published on 30th January. The GFA did not wish to respond, according to the newspaper.
I could choose many examples of how society these days seems to be based on dumbing down the people and encouraging them to accept a “look after the strong and it will help us all” ethos (aka “Big Society”) without question, whilst the reality is that small communities’ supposed protectors are becoming their executioners.
I’ll continue with local football though because barely had the ink dried on my letter “Development of Guernsey FC has wrecked domestic football” which you published, albeit in slightly edited fashion, on 10th January, then you ran a story which revealed that St Martins had requested the postponement of a Priaulx league game because of a shortage of players, chiefly on the grounds of “Christmas social commitments.”
Rather than send St Martins away with a flea in their ear and possibly sanctioning them for submitting a request on frivolous grounds, the League Management Committee chose to grant Saints’ request. Not only that, but they said that in future they would consider not scheduling games around the Christmas period. Unbelievable, unbelievable.
Since when has the Priaulx been a social league? Surely dedication to the sport should be being recognised and encouraged by its authorities, so if one team’s players prioritise playing above socialising and another’s doesn’t, then why reward the latter? What sort of message has that now sent to the rest of the players and clubs in the leagues? It’s not clear how much notice of the postponement their would be opponents (Rangers) were given, but will the GFA, LMC or St Martins be refunding them the cost of any training sessions they put on in preparation for the game?
According to the GFA’s website the “League Management Committee works closely with the Guernsey FA”, which tells me that the GFA does not regard the LMC as being its responsibility. (“Works closely with” is not the same as “takes its instructions from”.) But surely it is ultimately the responsibility of the Guernsey Football Association to look after the health of the sport in the island. Or is it? The GFA doesn’t seem to think so, or if it does hold this belief it must be deeply buried in its advertisement infested website. It is strangely silent on most football matters raised in the media, and somewhere along the line has apparently absolved itself of running the domestic leagues, even though the clubs which play in those leagues (and also Guernsey FC) are affiliated to it. The GFA website also states that the three members who sit on the LMC are Keith Mansell, Brian Horsepool and Kelvin Melrose. According to your newspaper however, the LMC is Nick Graham, Andy Robert and Brian Horsepool. So on whose authority are the first of those two acting? In fact on what authority does the LMC –whoever sits on it – run the domestic leagues? If the clubs are affiliated to the GFA and not the LMC then what authority does the LMC have unless it has been appointed by the GFA? And if it has been so appointed, then that means that ultimate responsibility for its actions lies with the GFA, just as the Directors of a company would be ultimately responsible for a foul up by one of its managers. Also, is the LMC sufficiently resourced – and by whom – to do a competent job?
According to the self styled “local community club” Guernsey FC’s website, it was the GFA which encouraged them to enter a foreign league and play half of its games outside the Bailiwick. It seems then that the GFA has taken the view that “unless it’s Guernsey FC it’s not important” and abandoned domestic football to the extent that it doesn’t even tell us which individuals run it, and has failed to step in when those who do are apparently prepared to reduce the Priaulx to social league status.
So what exactly does the GFA do, apart from distribute nanny state guidelines handed down to it by the FA in the UK? Similar questions are being asked of the FA itself…..
I was expecting negative and positive reactions to my initial letter from Guernsey FC fans and those who think as I do respectively. Instead of which I have received an almost universal response of “Where are the GFA in all of this?”
The World Cup of 2022 is scheduled for Qatar. It will be a disaster. 48 teams, 16 groups of 3 with the top two in each going through. That opens up the possibility of the two teams who play in the third game engineering a result which puts the other team out. Remember this? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgrace_of_Gij%C3%B3n
Not only that, it’ll be so hot, the games will be slow and so there will be numerous draws. So especially with fewer games to shake out the pecking order, some teams will progress by drawing lots.
When they had 24 teams at the World Cup, as will be the case in Qatar, only a third of the teams were in the Group stages, and the group matches were sterile. That changed when they went to a two from four system.
Often the knockout games are boring because if its level after an hour the teams settle for not making a mistake, take extra time and then if it’s still level after ten minutes of that, settle for penalties. And again, in the heat, the chances are that the games will be level.
It’s suggested that the increase in the number of teams is to promote consumer interest in the world cup. Consumerism raises its head again then. How much interest will there be in the world cup after Qatar has finished with it?
If you want to promote a global government, then you can do without things that generate national fervour like the World Cup or even Olympic games (where could this go? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugee_Olympic_Team_at_the_2016_Summer_Olympics)
I’m starting to wonder whether the football authorities won’t be happy until every team is made up of Stepford Wives.