“I love meeting England fans…” Greg Dyke informed us, in a pre-recorded video, to 300 fans at this year’s Supporters’ Summit (organised by the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters’ Direct) at Wembley Stadium.
Given England’s calamitous early exit from the World Cup obviously Greg had a few questions to answer… He managed to pick on some easy targets describing the FA Council as ‘too old and white’, he did of course omit the word ‘useless’. He then answered some ‘difficult’ questions supporters had sent in like, ‘why is the FA doing such a great job?’ Slight exaggeration, but you get the drift.
Naturally when you mention the words “Football Association’ it is always connected like an umbilical cord with ‘cock-up’ so as Mr Dyke informed us about his love of meeting England fans it was followed by a clip of him chatting to one England fan on… a luxury yacht. Cue laughter from the audience. Clearly the FA’s PR Department have no sense of irony.
To be fair the FA Commission on the state of English football was a weighty document that went beyond the normal stats – 25% of the Premiership eligible to play for England. There were some devastating figures about grass roots football-
England has 639 artificial grass pitches compared to over 5,000 inGermany.
It is estimated that on average it costs £11,700 per year to properly maintain a grass pitch, local authorities currently spend on average £2,000 per pitch per year.
Coaches in Germany and the Netherlands are typically paid €40,000 per year in England most coaches are freelance and earn less than £16,000 per year.
However, as one of the delegates pointed out, ‘we’ve been hearing all this for the last ten years and what have the FA done?’
The Supporters’ Summit also hosted some excellent workshops, at the Supporter’s Liaison Officers one we heard contributions from a range of clubs. Toilets at Crew Alexandra? SLO Dave Tomlinson stunned the board when he asked how many of them had used the ones in the Gresty Road End! Chris Waters from Sunderland spoke about some of the basic work an SLO could accomplish. Two fans had a Sky TV camera parked right in their sight line and, no, they didn’t want to move. After being ignored for years, Chris got Sky to move their camera. Problem solved, fans happy. Who knows maybe Everton’s own SLO will finally get round to meeting, er, supporters?
The session on Supporters’ Trusts featured some heroic work by fans who had rescued clubs form the brink of oblivion, Wrexham and Portsmouth are now 100 % fan owned. Even in the Premiership, where fan ownership is on the far distant horizon, there were still great examples of fans pressurising the club – at Spurs the Supporters’ Trust had forced the club to reconsider using ticket touts, sorry, ticketing ‘agencies’ like Stub Hub, and the success of Chelsea Supporters Trust in conjunction with the Football Club against Viagogo should be held up as exactly what fans can achieve when organised.
Most fans would never make it to places like Wembley’s Bobby Moore Room, it’s for all the corporates who never make it back for the start of the second half. The FA did give us the venue for nothing and it was sponsored by BT Sport. All well and good if it wasn’t for the fact that the Premiership is a model for the fact that the ‘Trickle Down Theory’ (throw enough money at the richest and some of it will trickle down to the poorest) just doesn’t work in practise. Maybe Greg Dyke should visitCamp Hill in Woolton, one of the largest Sunday football grounds, where kids are getting changed in a disused shipping container. It’s a long, long way from Wembley Stadium.
by Richard Knights (@RichardKnights1)