Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sweet FA

A nation of overweight children too fat
to play football? Certainly sir, would you
like fries with that?

I was perusing the appointment pages of the Sunday Times last week, and came across a cushy little position at the FA. The job title was ‘Chief Executive’ or something; must be important, because they took out a half page ad, and in colour too. Now I read the blurb, and as far as I can gather, the main goal for the successful applicant is to sort out this failing enterprise, and point it in the right direction so that ultimately, the English can win some football matches. At least that’s what I gleaned from the particularly convoluted language used in the ad. They make it sound easy; anyone can achieve co-ordinated synergy whilst maintaining traction to gain leverage in a competitive and ever changing dynamic sector, right?

I was just about to apply, when my mind was unexpectedly cast back to a balmy summer’s evening in 2006, when having obtained the telephone number for FA’s Soho square offices from directory enquiries, I drunkenly called them to demand an explanation for Mr Eriksson’s choice of formation during the group stages. I left my name on that answer phone message, and so considered my hopes of becoming incumbent in the chief exec’s suite dismal at best.

Whatever the eventual candidate decides to do down there at the nation’s most overpaid and under worked office building will be entirely irrelevant. Yes, he (or she, but we’ll safely assume he for now) might change the stationery or sack some people, but there is not much that can be done about the overriding task that has dogged the organisation for over 42 years now; winning something football related. There is the youth training stuff to deal with, but all that needs to be done there is to say ‘yes’ and part with some cash for the seemingly ill fated national football academy in Burton (which at present is occupied by sheep) and put a stop to the ridiculous (but lucrative) sponsorship deal that sees the FA working in conjunction with McDonalds, of all people, to promote grass roots level coaches and facilities. No, the main task lies beyond the CEO’s control; the management of the national team. To inflict further ignominy on the previous director, that task was given to Steve Mclaren, to whom I am not prepared to give the credit of my precious words to insult. Oh, ok then. Wanker. Anyway, he was sacked and went off to learn to speak English in a Dutch accent, and now we have Fabio Capello, who looks equally as clueless if we’re all honest, but has a glittering managerial career behind him. So far it seems to be going ok, but there is still plenty of time for his players to trip over their own egos and end up in a big heap somewhere at the bottom of the world cup qualifying group. We’ll see.

This week, Capello has expressed his desire to coach the British Olympic team in 2012, describing the opportunity as his ‘dream’. We can only assume with his limited grasp of English that by ‘dream’ he meant ‘waking nightmare’. The whole affair will be a disaster from start to finish. It’s hard enough to get one country to play to a decent standard, let alone four. I am also doubtful if the respective FA’s of England and Scotland will ever actually agree to the terms and conditions that will see the first coming together of the home nations for a competitive tournament. Capello has a significant rival in his bid to coach Team GB; a grimly visaged Scotsman who hangs around Manchester a lot. Alex Ferguson is also in the running, presumably so he can pick 11 Scottish players and stick two fingers up at the English as his swan song before retiring to a yacht in the Caribbean.

Whilst I am on the subject of the Olympics, it seems that staging a multi billion pound event smack bang in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the last one is finally beginning to induce some headaches. It has been confirmed that fewer new homes will be built on the Stratford site than originally planned, and the state of the art Media Centre will now be a not so state of the art ‘temporary’ structure, or portacabin. One can only assume that this downscaling will continue and gather momentum as time passes, although you can bet that the final bill will not drop with it. At this rate, we are potentially looking at staging the athletics on the playing fields at Lewisham College and the diving competition on a plank of wood nailed to Blackfriars Bridge.

Back at the FA, there is no obvious resonance of a recession, with a six-figure salary plus benefits awaiting the successful applicant at Soho Square. A wage befitting of the task at hand I would say. If the new CEO can drag English football out of the doldrums and put in place a mentality that leads all the way to the world cup final and the Olympic gold medal, I’d give him a blank cheque. And a knighthood.