“It is not my fault the country is only 60 million. There are 212 countries playing this game. We are blessed to have 20 of the world’s largest 50 clubs. Within that 20, between three and five of the biggest 10. There are only 10 football clubs vying for this top talent.”
Richard Scudamore’s opening salvo against the FA – the organisation the Premier League chief executive believes should be held accountable for England’s failures – was about as diplomatic and controlled as Australian cricketer David Warner in a Birmingham pub.
Over the last two decades, English football has developed into a puzzling paradox. From the dark era of hooliganism and “bonding sessions” to all seated stadia and foreign stars flocking the top-flight whose games are broadcasted to the four corners of the globe.
However, for all the money that’s been poured into the national game since 1992 and despite the Premier League’s decision to self-proclaim itself as the best league in the world, England’s performances have largely gone backward over the last 21 years.
Since the Premier League replaced the old First Division in 1992, England’s best result in a major tournament was the semifinal of Euro 1996, the summer when Gareth Southgate’s penalty prevented football from coming home.
Despite boasting an increasingly richer and popular league, England have failed to improve over the last 17 years and many have laid the blame firmly at the Premier League’s doorstep.
The English top-flight is far from an idyllic environment and the collusion between clubs and league has often been earmarked as an Achilles heel for the national team, whose interests are small change compared to gigantic financial wheels the Premier League’s top teams have moved since 1992.
However, for all its shortcomings and self-adulation, blaming the Premier League for England’s failure is rather shortsighted as well as, well, clearly wrong.
Richard Scudamore might be a figure inspiring about as much compassion and benevolence as the sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, but the Premier League chief executive was right to highlight that England’s failure dated to a pre-Premier League era.
“Clearly, we have a job to do. We have not won the World Cup since 1966. We didn’t start until 1992. What happened between 1966 and 1992? Whose fault was that? The whole thing is immensely frustrating. It cannot be our fault on any level,” said Scudamore.
“Let’s run the reverse argument. Where does that leave the people at the FA in terms of their accountability? It can’t be our fault. It is bigger than us. It is not the Premier League who ripped up the playing fields. It is not the Premier League that didn’t put the education into schools that the government should have done. That is not the Premier League’s fault.”
When one considers England’s failure at every level this summer, from the European Under 21 Championship, to the U20 World Cup and Women’s European Championship, there’s little evidence to suggest the Premier League should be held accountable for these disastrous expeditions.
Undoubtedly, the Premier League with all its foreign imports hasn’t helped the national team, for too many Premier League clubs seek talent abroad rather than giving local players a shot at glory but, likewise, the FA’s failure to develop a proper coaching system from the grassroots level of the game has left English football lagging behind the top European countries.
The Premier League has outgrown the FA for political importance and has developed into one of the most profitable brands in the world, one from which, at times, the FA is only too happy to benefit from.
For all the Premier League’s faults – and there are many – the FA should get its house in order, before pointing fingers and blaming others for its failures.
Whose to blame for England’s failures? Would a closer relationship between the Premier League and the FA be a good solution? Let us know your thoughts below or, better still, you can follow Football Rascal on Twitter and Facebook by just clicking the links. It would be rude not to!