Ah, the FA. According to the average man – or the fan – in the street, they are pretty much to blame for all of our national game’s ills.
Fining Babel for his tweets, not taking retrospective action against Rooney’s stray elbow, sending Fergie to the stands. The list goes on and on and, while there is calm logic behind each decision, you won’t have to go far to find someone frothing at the mouth at their perceived inadequacies.
So you could forgive them for growing thick skins, sticking their fingers in their ears and singing ‘not listening, not listening, not listening’ as Twitter goes into overload following each press release. They are far from perfect, formed to run a game over a century old and some would say ill-equipped to deal with the madness of the modern world.
And yet this week a quiet revolution happened in the shadow of our national stadium. With the national newspapers screaming blue murder about Fabio Capello’s decision to reinstate John Terry as England captain, the FA asked everyone who cares about the game for their opinion on how the grassroots football should be run. Yes, they want to hear from you.
So, just for a moment, put down your tabloid, turn down the volume on that call-in radio show… and have a think, how are we all, together as a nation, going to improve the standard of footballers our country is producing?
Boring question? Possibly, if all you care about is the here and now. But I would ask you to think about the grassroots game; think about skill, touch and technique triumphing over long-ball tactics and physicality among the under-10s; think about angry Dads living out their frustrated football dreams from the touchlines as they urge their sons to ‘get stuck in’ and ‘get it forward’.
I run my son’s under-8 team and one particular parent has been questioning why we play a blue and a yellow team instead of an A and B team. The best players should go in the best team; never mind the other lot, according to him. So what if one of the ‘lesser’ players (not my words) goes on to develop at a different rate to his team-mates and turns out to be the next Jack Wilshere? Well, I’m not going to be the one who drove him out of the game at the age of eight, thank you.
We have a choice…. that’s right ‘we’. Not the FA, not the players, but ‘we’. You, me and everyone who cares about football in this country: keep going the same way we always have done, or stop, think and listen more closely to what the FA are saying. What is there to lose? If they’re wrong, we’re exactly where we are now; if they’re right, there could be exciting times ahead.
It’s too easy to be cynical and keep on blaming someone in their ivory tower when, in fact, we are being asked for our opinion and there is an opportunity to get involved and do something about it. You can help effect change where it matters – at grassroots level. Perhaps you just don’t want to?
:: The Big Grassroots Football Survey will run until March 31 and results of the census will provide the basis for fresh investment by the Football Association for the next four-year period. To take part in the survey simply go to www.critical.co.uk/cfasurvey
In the shadow of Wembley stadium, FA chairman David Bernstein launched the Big Grassroots Football Survey this week. At the same time he opened a new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitch at the ARK Academy, Wembley, funded by a Football Foundation grant of £229,136