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Wisdom is wasted on football’s elderly white men

It is increasingly clear that current leaders are collectively unrepresentative of English society

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 December, 2016, 9:37pm

The only positive thing about inept elderly white men running organisations – and thus ruining everything – is that it takes angry elderly white men to identify the problem.

Take the five former English Football Association bigwigs, all angry elderly white men – AEWM for short – who have written to the UK government demanding immediate intervention to overhaul the sport’s dysfunctional governing body, run by inept elderly white men, aka IEWM.

Three former FA chairmen – Lord Triesman, David Bernstein and Greg Dyke – plus two ex-chief executives, David Davies and Alex Horne, penned the letter calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to “reform and modernise” the FA.

In their missive, they claimed the 25 IEWM sitting at the FA’s top table meddle far too much and block everything – including England’s chances of ever winning a major tournament again.

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The attack came as the FA grapples, with all the deftness of an elderly white man with acute arthritis peeling an orange with a soup spoon while strapped into a roller coaster, its biggest crisis in its 153-year history.

Just how the allegations of sexual abuse of youth team players that first surfaced against coaches and clubs in the 1990s were brushed under the carpet, is subject to an internal probe, while police forces across the country have opened investigations.

The scandal is the tip of the iceberg. A litany of failures has made fans wince in pain and embarrassment for half a century.

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The England national team have limped through another pathetic year of turmoil, sent packing by Iceland at the European Championship, leading to the departure of manager Roy Hodgson.

His successor, Sam Allardyce, was then shamed out the door after his unguarded comments to journalists in an anti-corruption sting. Last month, underachieving greenhorn Gareth Southgate was hired to produce the country’s elusive first trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

In their mercy plea to legislators, the quintet of AEWMs said they want the “woeful lack of English players or managers and the embarrassing failures of our national team for the past 50 years” is redressed by parliament to whip the FA into shape for the 21st century.

The Premier League’s suits were singled out for having too much sway over English football “due to their financial might and the way financial contributions are wielded at every turn to assert beneficial positions”.

Since its 1992 breakaway from the Football League by leading clubs, the EPL juggernaut has been swallowing up everything in its path – or knocking down anything that dares get in its way.

The FA has neither the nous nor independence required to counter the EPL, or to modernise its own governance.

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Why? Because those in senior FA positions are, by “a significant majority, white, elderly men” and “collectively unrepresentative of English society and English football in 2016”, wrote the AEWM.

Their letter landed on the desk of Damian Collins MP, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Collins responded in kind, saying he wanted a House of Commons vote of no confidence in the FA next month.

He wants to use the Government’s powers to redraw the FA’s constitution by stripping the blazers and the EPL of their power.

“Time and again we see new scandals affecting football. There is a constant feeling the FA is a weak governing body which is not in control of the game, and that all it really is, is a playground where the vested interests in football fight each other. That has to stop. We cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Collins.

That the FA needs desperate reform is not up for debate; only cricket’s MCC board, long thought of as a working museum piece and rest home for IEWMs, has proved itself more incompetent.

And clearly, the ultimate goal of this drastic demand for a parliamentary overhaul is the hope England will one day lift the World Cup again.

But the very thing the AEWMs are calling for could see England banned from the very competition they hope to win.

The world governing body, Fifa (also stuffed with EWM) forbids political interference in the running of federations and has suspended a number of nations recently.

George Bernard Shaw quipped youth was wasted on the young. The same might be said of wasted wisdom on football’s EWM.