English Football

Errm, excuse me?

The Premier League is in discussions with Downing Street over ways in which it can increase the number of home-grown players appearing regularly for England\’s leading clubs.

Why is anyone talking to a Scot about this? Further, will the same rules appply to the Scottish Leagues? The Welsh (in so far as they have one)? NI? Well then, bugger off.

Discussions have begun with senior advisers to the prime minister and James Purnell, the culture secretary, to try to develop a consensual "British solution" to the apparent decline in the number of British and Irish players in the nation\’s top sides.

Err, look, that really does give the ball game away, doesn\’t it? The Premiership is England\’s football competition. If it is to be bent to creating a national team, it would be logical for it to be bent to the creation of an English one, correct? So they can bugger off again.

But vastly more important than this is the point that football clubs are in fact private businesses. Within the strictures of general immigration law (you know, EU workers can work anywhere etc.) Government has no damn business telling a private company who it may or may not employ (assuming that we\’re talking about consentinig adults, of course).

So they can bugger off a third time.

18 comments on “English Football

  1. What the hell does this have to do with Downing Street? Even allowing for the fact that I would literally prefer to watch granite erode than watch a soccer game, I can see no need for government to involve itself (and our money) in a game, any game.

  2. This is a time of national crisis for English football but then it usually is. The economics of football is perverse:

    “Most economists reject the idea that football clubs have ever been run as pure profit maximisers. After all, in 1896 the FA placed a limit of 5% of the paid up share capital as the maximum dividend payout to shareholders. This was raised to 7.5% in 1920, 10% in 1974 and 15% in 1983. Making money out of a football club was a hazardous and unlikely business, certainly up until the 1990s. Even today one can still find examples of major investors – Jack Walker at Blackburn; Jack Hayward at Wolves; Matthew Harding at Chelsea – who spent millions at their own clubs for little apparent financial gain. . .”
    http://www.le.ac.uk/so/css/resources/factsheets/fs10.html

    By international standards, the English international team is thoroughly mediocre but there is a continuing disjoint between that unfashionable, if indisputable, fact and populist expectations. Where I live in London was festooned with with St George Cross flags at the time of the World Soccer Cup last year – and the England team (predictably) lost out at an early stage. At the time of the Rugby Union World Cup this year, not a flag was to be seen even though the England rugby team were finalists and defending world champions.

    For all the competitive failings of the English football team, football is very big business in Britain as entertainment:

    “The average Premiership footballer earns a basic salary of £676,000, according to a survey published today. The survey, conducted by The Independent in conjunction with players’ union PFA, puts the average top flight player on £13,000 a week – but that figure rises by anything between 60 and 100% when bonuses are factored in.”
    http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,,1751542,00.html

    How much the CEOs of successful businesses in Britain get paid may be a hot issue for continuing political debate but there is absolutely no populist complaint about how much football players get paid. The trouble, as Gordon Brown might have said, is, “lucrative British jobs for indigenous British players.”

  3. If they want more English players we should concentrate on the supply not trying to tamper with the demand. The fact is we are not producing homegrown players. The number of foreign players in our league is irrelevant, there is a European market here and European and expecially French players are flooding every league. We should see what the French have been doing these last two decades and copy them (put money into football training in our schools), rather than trying to manipulate freedom of movement.

  4. The European employment laws apply equally as much to Spain as to England yet they seem to manage just fine in terms of producing Spanish players, despite having a league that is financially not far off the Premier League and a work permit system that makes it even easier for clubs to employ large numbers of South Americans.

  5. “put money into football training in our schools”

    Better to invest in success and have all state schools play rugby instead to even up the competitive advantage which all those rugby playing independent and grammar schools have.

    As the Duke of Wellington put it, “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

  6. “His Grace was far too sensible to say anything so fatuous, Bob.”

    Well, I checked and the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (ed Anthony Jay) includes that quote among the entries for the Duke of Wellington but adds a caveat that the source is no better than “oral tradition.”

    More seriously, the casualty lists for Waterloo, posted on the web, include many surnames names from the most illustrious families in Britain so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if many of the commissioned officers had attended Eton as pupils. Late during the battle of Waterloo, Henry Paget was on horse besides Wellington when his leg was hit by a cannon shot. He exclaimed, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” — to which Wellington replied, “By God, sir, so you have!”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Paget,_1st_Marquess_of_Anglesey

    Nowadays, we are very properly concerned about about the scale and care of battlefield casualties among our troops but I suspect we incline to under-rate the horrific scale of slaughter in those historic battles of the Napoleonic wars two centuries ago and that is a mistake. The combined casualty rate on both sides at Waterloo in 1815 exceeded 6,000 an hour!
    http://www.napoleonic-literature.com/WE/Casualties.html

    Several sources attribute this to Wellington as a later comment on battles after he had retired: “Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained.” Several biographies quote eyewitness accounts of him weeping on reading battle casualty lists.

  7. Bob B:

    “By international standards, the English international team is thoroughly mediocre”

    For God’s sake, when will people realise this is completely wrong? We are a medium sized country, and in a game which almost all countries in the world now play seriously, getting to the quarter finals of the last 2 world cups (i.e. being in the top 5-8 in the world) is bloody impressive!

    The whole argument for quotas is based on the fallacy that England ‘should’ be winning the world cup.

    Of course, even if England should be winning the world cup, quotas in the EPL are still a terrible idea. But that’s another matter.

  8. Ross:

    “The European employment laws apply equally as much to Spain as to England yet they seem to manage just fine in terms of producing Spanish players, despite having a league that is financially not far off the Premier League and a work permit system that makes it even easier for clubs to employ large numbers of South Americans.”

    You do realise that England did better than Spain both at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2004, and the teams both lost in the 1/4 finals of World Cup 2002? So we actually do better than Spain at ‘producing players’ based on major tournament success.

  9. Bob, Oxford books ain’t what they were. Barry Phelps, in “You Don’t Say”, attributes the “report” of the remark to Sir William Frazer. In 1889!! He points out that Eton didn’t have playing fields when Wellington was there. From “They Never Said It” by Boller and George, I learn that Wellington had no affection for the place, not visiting it again until 34 years after leaving, and refusing to contribute to a subscription appeal in 1841. All in all, a far-fetched and implausible yarn, I judge.

  10. “So we actually do better than Spain at ‘producing players’ based on major tournament success.”

    I’m aware of that, but the fact remains that La Liga consists of around 60% Spanish players whereas the Premiership has under 40% English players. On top of that Spain exports a decent number of players too whereas few English players play abroad.

  11. “All in all, a far-fetched and implausible yarn, I judge.”

    Quite possibly but since the source of the quote is attributed to “oral tradition”, evidently many folk not only believed Wellington said it but believed he was capable of saying it. And besides, the posted casualty lists for Waterloo do include the surnames of many illustrious British families so it is credible that a significant number of the officer casualties had attended Eton.

    Wellington’s practice of command in battle was to disclose little of his battle plan beforehand to his divisional commanders (supposedly for security reasons and the complete opposite of Nelson’s practice in sea battles) and then to ride around the active battlefield issuing commands according to how the battle developed.

    It was a high-risk mode of command for which he was often criticised but there is no doubt that it was successful and in circumstances where British troops (or the troops he commanded in India) were almost invariably outnumbered by the enemy.

    This mode of command depended on a strong sense of rapport between Wellington and his divisional commanders and complete obedience – Wellington did not approve of individual initiatives by his commanders. It also meant that Wellington could claim much of the credit for winning the battles where was in command.

  12. Ross, I thought the whole debate about whether or not we should have quotas was based on teams like Arsenal being ‘bad for the English game’? Hence why this issue has become so popular around the time the national team is doing poorly?

  13. “For God’s sake, when will people realise this is completely wrong? We are a medium sized country, and in a game which almost all countries in the world now play seriously, getting to the quarter finals of the last 2 world cups (i.e. being in the top 5-8 in the world) is bloody impressive!”

    C’mon. Italy – a medium sized country – won the world soccer cup last year and France – another medium sized country – won it the time before. And the England football team hardly has a good track record of winning in international matches.

    On the evidence of performance, we should give up on football and concentrate on rugby in which the England team really is world class.

    The problems, of course, are the class thing together with inverted snobbery and rugby really is a tough game to play. But think of the gains. I’m sure the police and the owners of drinking places in many city centres in Europe would welcome the prospect of fewer visits by English football fans. Hopefully, in due time they might even come to forget that we have among the worst behaved football fans in Europe.

  14. Ryan Giggs would make a fine fly-half. In fact, Ryan Giggs was a fine schoolboy fly-half. But then he’d play for Wales anyway, I suppose.

  15. Alex is right about this, the whole debate is hysterical. England have only contested 15 world cup tournaments, have won one . It’s not a bad record. Since 1950, England have only lost 23 matches in World Cup competition.

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