Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Notes From, Well, Quite A Big Island Actually...

So Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League (not to be confused with Sir Dave Richards, the Chairman of the Premier League who Fulham are asking the High Court to fire for improper interference in transfers) says that the World Cup result is "partly" the Premier League's fault.

Which is fine (being at least the truth, if not necessarily the whole truth) except that he reinforced his argument by recourse to one of the great canards beloved of British sports pundits after another valiant or not-so-valiant failure; "We're only a small island, we have to be realistic."

Back in 2003, I remember the same pundits revelling in the fact that Yorkshire (a county not exactly united in its love of the game) had more registered rugby union players than the whole of Australia (a country almost five times the size). Indeed, this was meant to be one of the reasons why we would (and, of course, did) kick Aussie butt in the Rugby World Cup final (and yes, I am going to gratuitously link to the video...)

But football never considers those statistics, it just says "We're only a small country" and moves along without so much as a by your leave. Which if funny, because actually we're something like the 22nd most populous nation on Earth and what's more, six of the larger nations have never qualified for a World Cup and four of them have only ever qualified once.

When you go beyond the basic populations and look at the actual footballing statistics, the hypothesis becomes even more ludicrous. According to FIFA's most recent global study, we rank 7th for registered adult players and 6th for registered youth players, as well as having the 2nd highest number of professionals and the highest number of clubs.

If we really are such a small nation, how did Spain with 16m fewer people and 760k fewer players manage to win this time? Italy and France are about the same size as us, you tell me, how have they been doing in World Cups of late?

The problems in English (and, indeed, British) football are far deeper than being the fault of the Premier League institutionally; there is a fundamental cultural gap that I have no idea how to close. But suggesting that we shouldn't expect to be a substantial player in the global game is utterly disingenuous and the sooner we stop trying to excuse failure and start trying to ingrain success, the better.


lionel said...

think you are having trouble distinguishing between England and Britain. As a councillor in Wales' capital, it's interesting to hear you talk of we and us. Do you mean Ingurland? Perhaps a map would help

Gareth Aubrey said...

Councillor in Wales notwithstanding, I was born and raised in Gloucester, so as far as football fandom is concerned, England is my "we".