By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
The announcement that the FA are to invest £150 million to improve run-down is a welcome sign. While not a total solution to the problems in the Grassroots game, it shows the FA are interested in tackling their many problems. Grassroots funding is one of them and I have picked the five key issues I believe the FA need to tackle to improve the game.
You don’t see bananas being thrown in England anymore, but racism is still widely seen at grounds up and down the country. You only have to watch Sky Sports News’ undercover footage of Millwall fans racially abusing El-Hadji Diouf a few months ago. Racism has to be stamped out and the only answer is harsh punishments for clubs and individuals, whether as a fan or a player, manager, etc. The Kick It Out campaign has been running for over ten years, but has it worked? Maybe a little bit, but why do we keep seeing headlines with racism in them.
2. Grassroots Funding
When the Premier Division is earning millions in TV revenue, it is sad that the Grassroots game receives little funding. Clubs from semi-professional to the Dog and Duck on Sunday morning struggle to pay bills whether for pitch rent or referee fees. It is a major sad state of affairs and something the FA need to look at – the news of the funding for new pitches is a step in the right direction.
3. Club Finances
The recently introduced tighter controls on debts in the Premier League will hopefully significantly reduce spending. But the FA needs to come down on clubs, not just Premier League, who are spending money they don’t have. Leagues need to have stringent financial checks on their clubs to avoid more Armageddon situations. The Portsmouth saga has been embarrassing for the whole of football and this scenario must not be repeated. It paints football in a bad light.
4. Crowd Disorder
Football has been dogged by hooliganism for over 40 years and it still exists on a smaller scale. While there is not a lot the FA can do, they still have to continue to try and eradicate it. Fighting between supporters still happens, but one of the major problems is persistent standing and offensive chanting. All-seater stadiums have encouraged families to spend their Saturday at the football. But standing and chanting deters people. Only Premier League team Sunderland seem to be acting on persistent standing, while offensive chanting seems go unpunished everywhere. The FA also has a problem with missiles being thrown at players and officials which is threatening safety.
5. Disciplinary System
Although it is an obscure choice, there are major inconsistencies in the disciplinary system. It often appears that the FA break-up the rule book when it suits them. Few red cards get overturned, mainly because of mistaken identity. But the John Terry racism case made a mockery of it. Terry got four matches for a racist comment when Eden Hazard almost received a longer ban for kicking a ball-boy. While Luis Suarez got eight games last year for a racist remark to Patrice Evra. And when a serious incident happens, the FA hide behind the rule that if an incident is seen by an official, they cannot intervene. This has meant players have got away with serious offences such David Luiz last week.