Archive for the ‘FA’ Category

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Are you a bored partisan plebe who has nothing better to do in their spare time than mull over FA arguments in search of inconsistencies as proof that England’s Football Association is corrupt, hates your club and your club alone, and wants Luis Suarez to die because he’s Uruguayan and because Liverpool must be prevented from ever winning the Premier League again?

Here you go.

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-CHELSEA-SUAREZOn Sunday, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez wounded Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović’s arm with his teeth, in a practice that is commonly referred to as biting. He bit another human being. And not for the first time.

Such naughty behavior is perhaps more common to preschools than football pitches. At least, this seems to be the thinking of the English Football Association, which has decided to treat the incident as such by informing Suarez’s mother of the episode and requesting her assistance in ensuring that it does not happen again.

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A new column dedicated to the money side of the game, Football Finance will appear every Wednesday.

Ian King over at 200% has written a must-read column on the FA’s decision to host the FA Cup final at 5:15 PM GMT. That may not seem like a particularly big deal, but King expertly reveals how the kick-off time affects fans of both sides:

All of this, however, reckons without the awesome powers of the Football Association to do their best to debase the very competition that bears their name. Their decision to play this season’s final at 5.15 in the afternoon would be funny, if it weren’t for the obvious ramifications of such a decision. Supporters from both Wigan and Manchester will have to make a round journey of around four hundred miles to get to this match, and the later the kick-off time is, the more difficult it will obviously be for supporters looking to get home on the evening of the match by train on a weekend that we already know will be disrupted by engineering work. A match kicking off at the time scheduled by the Football Association will finish at around 7.10 in the evening if there is no extra-time, giving Wigan Athletic supporters an hour and twenty minutes to get to London Euston railway station.

This, as King points out, will also prevent fans from enjoying the trophy presentation as they rush to catch the remaining trains home. It also tacitly encourages fans to spend the day drinking in London, a logistical failure in light of the recent violence in the stands during the Wigan/Millwall semifinal.

Most odious of all however are comments from FA General Secretary Alex Horne, quoted in their entirety by King:

We’re now used to consuming our football in those time slots. It really works. Lunchtime kick-offs just haven’t got the same appeal. The 5.15pm kick-off for the final was really successful. We added a couple of million viewers. It’s a sensible compromise. When we designed the new national stadium, we knew we needed to put content in it. That’s what is paying for the stadium. Over time we are paying off the debt we had to incur to build the stadium. Investing in Wembley is investing in football. It’s a positive for all of football.

This is the triumph of private sector influence over community entities in the last three decades—those in governance now rightly or wrongly follow the money wherever it may go. Therefore, the needs of the many (more paying customers, rights holders, TV advertisers) outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Which means local fans consumers basically exist to provide gate receipts and stadium atmosphere for audiences watching on television.

The idea of football as ‘content’ to be ‘consumed’ was repeated by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in his happy assessment of NBC’s considerable efforts to splash as much Bee Pee El action all over US screens next season. Scudamore told reporters, “Nowhere do they consume sports like they do here. We are not unhappy with our current broadcast partners (in the United States), but I can see we are on the threshold of taking it to a new level.”

Both Horne and Scudamore have sat through the same powerpoint presentations in which sport is simply an empty cipher (content) to be ingested and defecated by a willing audience (consumption).

Swiss Ramble meanwhile, whose blog has gone silent but who is still a vital presence on Twitter, gave some context to the FA’s desire to ensure its 150 year-old content sponsored by American beer Budweiser is consumed for the highest return possible:

Private loans led by official banking partners, secured on the promise of content to be consumed. This is the trend in football—the fan watching on television is now of paramount importance. Gate sales are a pleasant bauble, merchandise sales an integral component of revenue. But what matters now is television rights. And they dictate a 5:15 PM kick off is better for ratings, better for advertisers, better for future negotiated rights deals. A final that was once symbolized by hundreds of thousands of working class supporters singing Abide With Me in unison is now content ready for consumption.

Yum!

It seems after several years’ worth of experience tracking these interminable disciplinary cases that the FA after match punishment is sort of a lottery. If it really bothers you that Agüero will walk, have fun howling at the moon all month.

Well, we knew this was coming, didn’t we?

The movie Glory, an Edward Zwick film about the 54th Massachusetts African American regiment in the Civil War (and one of the best war movies of all time—you’re welcome), features a scene in which some soldiers from the 54th get in a row with some white Union soldiers. Some epithets are traded and a fight ensues. At that moment, their white Major Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) breaks it up and threatens to bring up charges against the white soldiers. The black Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman) implores him not to. “It’s a just a soldier’s fight,” he explains.

It’s a remarkable scene, particularly as the first third of the movie hammers home the importance, harshness, and frequency of military discipline. Rawlins appeal however is instantly understood by all involved, and the matter is dropped, and both sets of soldiers calm down and move along. Later, Rawlins and others encounter the soldier involved in the fight, who cheers them on in an epic charge on a Confederate fort.

Somethings there are clear injustices that require action and resolution, and sometimes there are unfortunate things that happen. Some are part of a larger change of wrong; others are atomized incidents of poor judgment with little long-lasting effect (this being Friday, tomorrow many of you will know what I mean).

I’m not an all-seeing judge, but I do side with the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor on his view of the Ball Boy Affair, made public shortly after the Capital One semi, in which he hoped in vain for the FA to let this one lie. “It was about a silly footballer and a silly boy,” Taylor wrote, “both of whom are probably old enough to have known a little bit better.” The FA however has decided it wants to pursue a punishment in excess of the three match ban, which all-but ensures this nothing of a story will stay with us for at least the next several weeks.

Of course the FA could not simply let this one sit; not for anything having to do with football, a game played at an impossible tempo by angry young athletes, but rather the public perception of inaction. The FA might ostensibly justify their pursuit of Hazard as a means to ensure footballers don’t abuse sideline staff, but it’s not even clear Hazard meant any malicious harm. He simply wanted the ball back and took a very stupid risk to get it back a little faster in the heat of the moment in a Cup semifinal that Chelsea were losing.

All that would have been required here was a fine, a stern warning, a public apology, and a clear statement by the FA on the deportment of touchline staff during football matches. Instead, the Football Justice Circus has pitched up tents, yet again.

The Lead

The Football Association tends to be all things to all people, if ‘all things’ in this case invariably means everything inept, evil, or corrupt. It didn’t take long after the release of the Hillsborough Report, for example, for the FA’s odious involvement in awarding Sheffield Wednesday a safety certificate to take centre stage in the media, over and above calls for South Yorkshire Police officials to resign. The FA after all is the enemy the football press knows.

How often does the FA take the rap? Let me count the ways:

If England fail under an otherwise stellar foreign manager, it’s the FA’s fault for not hiring an Englishman. If the manager quits over his refusal to abide by their team-selection policy, it’s the FA’s political fumble. If England fail under an otherwise terrible English manager, it’s the FA’s fault for succumbing to populist opinion in hiring him. If the England players aren’t up to the same technical standards of Spain, it’s because the FA have failed to take a leadership role revamping the player development pathways. The FA’s attempt to revamp player development pathways with the Elite Player Performance Plan will bankrupt smaller clubs and entrench the Premier League’s power.

Wait, there’s more! The greed of the Premier League is a direct result of the FA’s decision to blindly cede power to the first division teams in 1992. The financial chaos in the lower leagues is a direct result of the FA failing to follow through on their fit-and-proper persons rules for potential owners. It was wrong of the FA to participate in FIFA’s corrupt kibuki play in England’s bid for the 2018, but it smacked of neocolonialism when they brought to light revelations of graft and extortion among other association reps.

“Blame the FA” works in almost every situation imaginable (I haven’t even got into the various racism charges it’s had to deal with in the last year), which is why John Terry er, blamed the FA’s investigation into accusations he racially abused Anton Ferdinand on October 23 2011 during Chelsea’s away match at Loftus Road against QPR for his decision to retire from the English national team.

The way he did so in particular was impossibly shrewd, through the use of one, effective word: “untenable.” Devoid of detail, it faintly implies a kind of harassment, as if the FA’s investigation was something more than pro forma, something…sinister.

While some columnists had the decency to call Terry on his astonishing bullshit, others like Martin Samuel trot out the old “the FA doesn’t follow the strictures of common law!” argument, forgetting that while the FA has different rules concerning evidence and guilt, it also cannot sentence players to prison terms but can award game suspensions and fines. Moreover, Samuel makes the curious claim the FA ‘forced’ Terry out when they were as blindsided by his retirement announcer as the rest of us.

In the end, these details won’t matter. Public opinion, even among Terry’s foes, will side against the faceless, inscrutable Football Association. They bungled it badly, as usual. Meanwhile the notion of personal responsibility, particularly for one’s behaviour in the heat of a football match, fades quietly into the background along with League Two scores and the Scottish Cup. Far easier to stick it to the man.
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