An Open Letter to The FA Chairman David Bernstein

Originally posted on General Musings of an Idiot.


Dear Mr Bernstein,

As a fan of football, both here in the UK and worldwide, I believe it is within my right to express my deep concern regarding the current circumstances surrounding football within the Premier League.

We have seen time and time again this season referees making poor decisions, based on players getting involved and influencing decisions, cheating and diving, poor offside decisions and what looks like biased refereeing towards certain teams. A referee is there to keep the peace, and to be the decision maker, in order to keep the game fair. How can they be keeping it fair when bad decisions are strewn throughout the game? Yes, there may be mistakes from referees, but when it becomes apparent that these mistakes are in every game, something needs to change.

We have seen Wayne Rooney get away with elbowing a fellow professional in the head, of which you commented that ‘if the referee states he has seen the incident the FA is not able to make decisions except in exceptional circumstances‘. If the FA takes no action towards incidents like this, then we are just telling youngsters involved in grassroots football that when the referee’s back is turned, you can get away with anything. Is this the message we want to portray?

Referees seem to be feeling the pressure this season, and plenty of poor decisions have been made. So much so, that Mark Clattenberg, once deemed one of the best refs in the game, has earned the nickname ‘Mark Clangerberg’. Even today, during the Sunderland vs. Liverpool game, we saw a penalty, that was a free-kick, which the referee was going to rightly award. However, when the linesman hadn’t kept up with play, flagged and then changed his mind to a penalty, the referee followed suit, and gave a penalty, which changed the match. How can this be deemed acceptable? When a team lose a crucial 3 points because a team of officials can’t get the decisions right?

It seems that with referees constantly making the correct decisions for years, we forgot to give the praise necessary. Instead, we concentrated on the bad mistakes, and the mass media has enforced this. Admittedly, we don’t give referees the recognition they deserve after a superb game, but when they have poor, indecisive games, the bad press is deserved. If we don’t hear via the press and the TV from the referees, as is currently banned by the FA and the Premier League, then how are we, as fans, meant to award the praise when they are not allowed to justify their decisions? It seems a very stupid, pointless rule to me.

All clubs in the Premier League, and throughout the Football League, strive to reach their dream of European football, and the financial windfall can be the difference between survival or administration, as we have seen in Portsmouth’s case. However, the joys of football fans, such as Tottenham’s continuing pursuit in the Champions League, goes to show quite how necessary it is for the English football league system to keep its four Champions League spots. With UEFA President Michael Platini trying to tear that fourth spot away and handing it to the winners of the FA Cup, one team will miss out, and the Big Four of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool will continue to be the dominant forces in football. The most exciting seasons seem to be those where other teams make the grade, like Spurs and Man City, so losing that opportunity for European football would be catastrophic to the fans. We need to strengthen our ties with both UEFA and FIFA, and make sure that these proposals never take flight, keeping our football the way we like it.

Not only that, but with FIFA being one of the most corrupt organisations in world sport, we have to ensure that this does not filter through to our own national governing body. Your proposal to ensure two impartial, independent members on the Board of Directors of The FA will give more opportunity for fair proposals and reforms can be made that will benefit not only the Premier League, but the Football League, and amateur and grassroots football too. Adding two directors will not, however, make a difference to what we currently have, but will only impact on the future of football, so something needs to be done now as well.

International football is key to how the FA runs. However, had £798m not been spent on Wembley Stadium, we wouldn’t have to have constant friendlies and international breaks. I am yet to find one manager who agrees with the international breaks that have to happen in order to gain that money back. The Millennium Stadium cost £121m, and is one of the best sporting facilities I have ever visited. How can Wembley have cost so much? A poor investment, if you ask me.

With England having to play these friendlies, we expect the best from our team. When you don’t even see the 11 players, representing their country, staying silent during the National Anthem – then you know that something is wrong. There are 51 million people in England, the majority of who are very proud of their English heritage, and belt out the National Anthem at any given opportunity. These footballers, who earn in excess of £100,000 a week, should be banned from representing their country if they believe they are above the rest of us, and don’t sing our anthem. They clearly do not care enough about representing us on an international stage. You don’t see international teams, where the average wage of each player is below £10,000, not singing their anthem, becasue they see representing their coutnry as a privilege, and not as somehting else to add to the CV.

I do agree that the best manager available should fill Fabio Capello’s shoes when he leaves after Euro 2012. But we know full well that foreign managers don’t work, and nor do rushed decisions. Look at Sven, and Steve McLaren. These decisions should be made soon, and involve not only the FA Board, but the players, and those who truly run football – the fans. The only way to inject life back into international football is to make the fans feel that they too are playing for England, and if by involving them in big, monumental decisions, we increase crowds and increase interaction with the team, then that is how it should be done.

Instead of spending time arguing whether or not to ban snoods, we should be spending time working out how to reform football and the Premier League to ensure a fair official, male or female, is assigned to each game, who can keep a game under control and get the decisions right 100% of the time. We need to make sure the decisions that affect our game are made based on sufficient evidence, and backed by a number of senior officials who represent the clubs of our nation. We need to make international football something to be proud of, rather than just to keep the meter ticking over. And we have to make sure that the players playing our game are those of a professional demeanour – wanting to play football because they love it, not because of the money involved. Ultimately though, we have to make the fans of the Beautiful Game to feel as if the players are playing for them. The game is being played for them. And that football is a sport for them. Too much of our sport is about money now, and we need to get it back to the glory days when players played to see smiles in the crowd, not the number of zero’s on their pay slip.

Yours Sincerely,

Adam Mills

A Fan of Football


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