The English Football Association (FA) announced today that the former Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Greg Dyke, would become the next FA chairman, commencing in July. What a very, very interesting choice. It surprised me that the FA, who are perceived by both the widely read media and through them by the general public that are interested in the national game as a moribund and backward looking organisation, would employ such an outspoken personality as Dyke.
Let’s not forget this is the same Greg Dyke who as Director General of the BBC went up against the Tony Blair-led Labour government in defence of BBC-based allegations that the September Dossier, delivered in 2002 by Blair to Parliament as the combination of reasons or casus belli for the invasion of Iraq, was in fact “sexed up” and contained “dubious information” over the capabilities of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programme. In particular over the claim that Iraqi forces had the capability to hit British forces in Cyprus with WMD 45 minutes after the order had been given. Even as a silly 17 year-old that claim sounded ridiculous to me, not so much the time specified but the plausibility given to this scenario ever actually happening. Dyke would eventually end up resigning from his role at the BBC after the Hutton Inquiry, set-up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly (The UN weapons Inspector who was the source for the BBC report) reported back in 2004 that the allegations from Andrew Gilligan (The BBC journalist involved) were unfounded, which seems patently ridiculous today as the evidence continues to emerge that the invasion was based upon a house of cards of evidence in regards to Iraq’s WMD programme, which many of the key decision makers both in Whitehall and Washington D.C. , were made well aware of. It would have been better for all, but mainly the BBC, if Dyke had been able to withstand this sustained attack by the government on the himself and the corporation but you can understand why he couldn’t, firstly for the stress involved and his feeling that the BBC had made mistakes in the way it had reported and gathered evidence on this story,
This is the same Greg Dyke who for good reason accused the BBC of being “hideously white” when he first took over at the corporation. The leadership at FA, through this appointment, seem to be sending the signal that they have listened to the criticisms leveled at them and are going to try and change the organisation. They could start by employing some women and showing the women’s game far more respect than they do at the moment. They could continue by taking on the power and increasing wealth of the Premier League to set the terms of the way football is run in England, which the manager of the England national team sees as damaging to the national team. Despite this problem for the national team of the ever-increasing wealth of the Premier League and the effect it has on the development of English players the FA must make sure that the biggest clubs in the Premier League do not look to make their own separate TV deals, massively decreasing the income for the middling teams in the League and in the lower leagues. Football is there for all fans not just your Manchester United and Chelsea’s. Dyke needs to work with and against, when need be, with the world footballing governing bodies at both the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and The International Federation of World Football (FIFA). We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and shout conspiracy every time a decision is made which we don’t agree with. The FA needs to work to make its voice heard on the world stage and understand that although we invented the game, it belongs to all countries.
I love football. For all of its sins, and complete lack of morals of some of those involved at times, I love the game. I love supporting my local team, Southampton F.C, I love the ridiculous controversy and emotions it generates among fans, it’s just funny. Stood next to my friend at St Mary’s last Saturday who could barely watch through anxiety during the second half as we beat Liverpool 3-1. Both of us having been there and seen it all before in regards to our team throwing it all away, brought these strong affiliations and emotions attached to the game home to me. It is not a serious thing yet at the same time it needs serious reform to keep it within the world of the average fan, who do care greatly about the future of the game. It is one of the best British cultural exports which truly has become a global sport. I hope Greg Dyke will continue to be courageous in this new role, willing to take on the power bases in UEFA and FIFA as he did with the British government over Iraq, and make the FA an organisation that other countries look to on how to run their national game.
Jonathan Woodrow Martin