Hanging on by a minuscule thread, once again the performance of the national team leaves a lot of questions. Despite all of the hype and hoopla about the Premiership being ‘the best league in the world’ it is not doing our national team any favours. Champions Manchester City provided one regular player, goalkeeper Joe Hart, and one squad player, James Milner to the England team. The club also provided several stars to other national teams.
After one poor performance in Euro 2000, the German equivalent of the FA brought in several changes to the Bundesliga, their premier football league. It took ten years to increase the number of German players under 23 years of age, from 5% to 16%. This clearly increases the pool of players qualified to play for Germany.
Note: that was after one poor performance - not the string of failures that England have produced across so many recent tournaments.
So what is the difference? A clear principle of what the Germans call 50+1 is the fact that the clubs in the Bundesliga are owned by their fans. Not oligarchs, money-launderers, shysters, fraudsters or even shrewd money grabbers such as the Glazers. Why should any off this rag bag collection of the greedy bother about the performance of the England team?
The FA have been supine to the point of being ridiculously impotent in the face of big money. Our national game is in a parlous state and has declined considerably over many years. Take one example where the FA have been worse than useless: junior football. Even experienced former pro-footballers attempting to run junior sides give up in the face of abuse and hostility from ill-informed parents. Young referees quickly learn that there are better ways to spend their time than being shouted at - and sometimes much worse - by mums and dads with little back up from the local football authorities. The behaviour and abuse heaped on officials in the Premiership is replicated at a local level. That the example is not set at the highest level is a disgrace. Radio and TV commentators need to be regularly reminded that their negative comments do not exist in a vacuum - their bile adds to the general opprobrium suffered by match day officials. Anyone still unconvinced should watch how players treat officials in Rugby Union.
Add poor pitch condition, crap changing facilities and maintenance issues and it is no wonder the amount of people playing football across the country is declining rapidly. The Premiership have cut back on the amount they pay to junior football. Compared to the sums generated the total involved was chickenfeed but without it the decline accelerates.
We have become a nation of watchers - not doers. Being a football fan means finding the best venue with a big screen and cheap booze. The Dutch find our attitude astonishing. Their national lottery equivalent has helped provide excellent sports facilities in every town and village across the country. People of all ages participate regularly in age-related leagues. Junior football is strictly non-competitive until all the basic skills are engrained into young players. The result is the thrilling style of play which produces such results as the thrashing of the former champions Spain and goals to inspire hordes of youngsters to practice diving headers in the style of Robin Van Persie.
Will losing to Costa Rica bring about a clamour for a public inquiry? Do not hold your breath. Most fans myopically put their clubs first.