Archive for the 'England' Category

Dec 02 2013

Profile Image of Becca Fisher

L’éternelle question: Est-ce les stades de la Coupe du monde au Brésil seront prêt à temps?

Workers stand near a crane that collapsed on the site of the Arena Sao Paulo stadium, known as "Itaquerao", which will host the opening soccer match of the 2014 World Cup, in Sao Paulo

Une grue s’est effondrée le mercredi 27 Novembre quand il hissait un morceau de toiture de 500 tonnes. L’accident a tué deux travailleurs et a renouvelé questions sur l’état de préparation du Brésil de tenir le tournoi de football. La cause de l’accident n’est pas encore connue, mais les enquêteurs ont déclaré qu’ils considéraient une erreur humaine, un problème avec la grue, et la possibilité que terrain détrempé de pluie avait changé sous le poids. Entreprise de construction Odebrecht a suspendu les travaux sur le site jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Travailleurs de la construction retournés aujourd’hui, cinq jours après l’accident, au stade qui aura le match d’ouverture de la Coupe du Monde. Les travailleurs sont entrés lentement dans le stade de Itaquerao à Sao Paulo avec détermination pour terminer le travail avant la première du Coupe du monde le 12 Juin. « Nous sommes tous Brésiliens et les Brésiliens n’abandonnons jamais. Nous allons faire notre travail et le premier match de la Coupe du Monde aura lieu ici. » 1,350 travailleurs du site ont été autorisés à reprendre le travail sur la plupart du stade à l’exclusion de la zone où l’accident est arrivé. Toutefois, le ministère du Travail a gelé l’utilisation des neuf autres grues du site jusqu’à le moment où les mesures de sécurité adéquates sont en place par Odebrecht.

Brazil WCup 2014 Stadium Problems

La préparation du Brésil pour la Coupe du Monde et les Jeux Olympiques de 2016 ont été troublés par des retards, des dépassements de coûts et une pression constante pour aller plus vite. Les fonctionnaires de FIFA ont publiquement réprimandé fonctionnaires brésiliens sur les problèmes, et une série d’arguments ont parfois éclaté entre les deux parties. Six des douze stades de la Coupe du Monde ont été rendus pour la Coupe des Confédérations plus tôt cette année, et FIFA insiste pour que les six autres à être rendus avant la fin de Décembre. Bien que l’accident de mercredi a fait un minimum de dommages à la Itaquerao, que les fonctionnaires avaient dit était 94% terminé avant l’accident, il est généralement admis que le stade ne sera pas prêt à temps.

Royt Hodgson

Avec le tirage au sort de la Coupe du Monde 2014 approchant et la récente catastrophe dans le stade à Sao Paolo, l’Angleterre est plus concernés par les lieux que l’opposition. Le gestionnaire de l’Angleterre Roy Hodgson insiste que l’endroit plutôt que l’opposition est la plus grande préoccupation pour lui comme il attend le tirage de 2014 Coupe du monde de vendredi à Salvador, Brésil. Son équipe n’est pas ensemencée, donc qu’ils sont garantis à jouer contre l’une des équipes dans le pot haut, soit le Brésil, l’Espagne, l’Allemagne, l’Argentine, la Colombie, la Belgique, la Suisse ou l’Uruguay. Mais il pense dans un pays aussi grand come le Brésil qu’où les jeux ont lieu sera tout aussi important qu’ils vont jouer contre. Il dit, « C’est un jeu agréable à jouer, mais je dois dire que je n’ai pas participé moi-même trop en ce que – nous obtiendrons ce que nous obtenons vraiment, la chose la plus importante est d’être là. Ensuite, on espère toujours que le tirage au sort va être bon pour nous en termes de où nous allons être invité à jouer. Il y a des lieux au Brésil qui sera plus difficile à jouer dans que d’autres. » Hodgson a dit que l’Angleterre va certainement être préparé et il est utile que la Football Association est incroyablement bien préparé. Il y a beaucoup d’expériences entre les joueurs, il y a des choses qu’ils pensaient bien travailler et les choses qui n’ont pas dans les tournois passés. Hodgson avait déjà connu un tournoi du foot international comme entraîneur-chef de la Suisse, il a pris la nation à la Coupe du Monde 1994 aux Etats-Unis. Quand on compare les États-Unis au Brésil, il pense que la participation du Brésil a un rôle supplémentaire parce que le Brésil est le pays que nous associons avec football, aussi bien avec l’Angleterre. « Nous espérons notre mieux, mais c’est comme Forrest Gump et sa boîte de chocolats. Nous allons l’ouvrir et voir ce que nous obtenons. »

Sources:

http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/international/americas/2013/12/workers_back_at_world_cup_stadium_after_accident

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/dec/02/world-cup-2014-draw-england-venues-opposition-hodgson-rio-brazil

One response so far

Dec 01 2013

Profile Image of Kavin Tamizhmani

What’s Wrong with the England Team?

Boasting the likes of Rooney, Lampard, Terry, and others, it is difficult to fathom the lack of success for the English national soccer team. Since defeating West Germany in 1966 4-2, England has failed to win the Fifa World Cup. England has not reached the semifinal of a major tournament since Euro 1996 and in Euro 2012 they were defeated by Italy in the quarterfinals. Current coach of the England squad and former Manchester United great, Gary Neville, expressed his guarded optimism for the English team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He stated, “I don’t think anybody in the England set-up – fans, coaches, players or management – are saying we are going to go to Brazil and win it. When we qualified for the World Cup in 1998 in Rome by getting a draw, everyone thought it was the greatest result of all time (1).”

England squad line up for team photo before their World Cup 2010 qualifying soccer match against Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk

Neville asserts that the English squad will always face unrealistic expectations by home fans, despite the fact that they have never won a World Cup in South America or in the United Kingdom. Paul Scholes supported Neville’s comments stating that England lacks in quality wins against established squads. Scholes says, “I always get the impression that, whenever England come up against a big nation like those, it is usually a signal that we are going to go out. They’re OK against the Polands and Ukraines — England will beat them all day long — but as soon as a top team comes along? Well…” Scholes goes on to lament the lack of quality players compared to Argentina and Spain.

Capello_flow2

Interestingly, some of the top talent described by Scholes and Neville perfect their craft in the English Premier League (EPL). They forget that the great Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano began their career at lowly West Ham United before joining more established clubs. Thus, although the EPL has come under fire recently for the lack of quality homegrown talent, the league is still widely regarded as the most challenging league in the world compared to Serie A or La Liga due to the physical nature of the English game. In spite of the production of great foreign players, why has this current crop of English players not lived up to their billing in tournaments?

article rooney

One primary reason for this ineptitude by England could be attributed to the lack of an identity for the national team. Although England does have superstars, who will be the leaders on the pitch and within the locker room? Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand argued “People talk about the identity of the English national team, well I’d like to know what it is. If you say ‘we’ve got an identity’, then what is it? Break it down, tell me what it is. If I said to you ‘what’s Germany’s identity as a national team? Resilience? Discipline? They’ve still got a bit of that, along with the new stuff – movement, retention of the ball, and so on. I just don’t know what ours is. I’m not even just talking about our first team. I’m talking about their under-21s, under-19s, under-18s and so on. If you look at any of their [Germany’s] teams, you would say they play the same way. Not just Germany, but Spain too. In ours, I don’t really see that (2).”

To try to solve the issues in the English squad, Ferdinand is involved in the Football Association Commission to try to revitalize the image of the national team. By implementing changes at a grassroots level, he believes England can once again compete at the highest level with other European powerhouses. With some of the game’s top youth academies, England has the potential to mold together a great squad. It may not be successful at this World Cup, but it remains to be seen what the national team’s identity will become in the near future.

What are your thoughts on what’s wrong with the England team?

If interested, there’s another great article in the New York Times discussing these issues.

 

1- http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1633590/england-not-pressure?cc=5901

2- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/international/10468955/Manchester-United-defender-Rio-Ferdinand-claims-England-national-teams-lacks-an-identity.html

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Nov 11 2013

Profile Image of Caitlin Moyles

The Christmas Truce match in 1914

Filed under England,Germany,History,News

In catching up on some online reading about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I stumbled upon an article in The Guardian about Britain’s plans to commemorate World War I.  These plans include nothing other than…a reenactment of a football match that was played between British and German troops on a Belgian battlefield during the Christmas Truce of 1914. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1914, only five months into the outbreak of the war in Europe, many British and German troops along the Western Front set down their weapons and came together between the trenches to celebrate the holidays and offer gestures of goodwill, according to history.com. The soldiers “exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs,” and “there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.” Although the soldiers played on opposing sides, the friendly match showed good-spirited competition transcending enemy lines. The soldiers’ humanity was expressed through sport.

This snapshot of football in history exemplifies World Cup founder Jules Rimet’s vision for soccer as a way to resolve international conflict without the use of violence. When Rimet, assumed the role of president of the Fédération International de Football Association in 1920, he spoke of his hopes that soccer would redirect conflict in the modern world “towards peaceful contests in the stadium, where foundational violence is submitted to discipline and the rules of the game, loyal and wise, and where the benefits of victory are limited to the wild joy of winning” (Dubois, 28). The Christmas Truce soccer match was a merely a casual kickabout, but taken in the context of WWI, it supports Rimet’s belief in the power of soccer to bring seemingly disparate people together in peaceful competition.

Andrew Murrison, the minister in charge of overseeing the WWI commemorations, expressed this sentiment when he told The Guardian that although the football match had no relevance to the outcome of the war, it is something that people “latch on to” at a “deeply, intensely personal level.” Additionally, history.com described the Christmas Truce festivities as “one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare,” adding that “it was never repeated.”  Soccer may just be a game, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Spontaneous matches like the Christmas Truce highlight some of the best parts of human nature—sportsmanship, discipline, teamwork, a competitive yet friendly spirit, and the human impulse to joyfully celebrate victory.

Works Cited

Dubois, Laurent. Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. Print.

2 responses so far

Nov 10 2013

Profile Image of Christopher Nam

United States Businessmen Taking Over the Premier League

This past week, David Goldblatt visited our class to explain his accounts of world football.  One interesting comment he made was describing the English Premier league as a business to be completely hopeless.  This past summer, Shahid Khan, a US billionaire car parts baron, bought Fulham football club for an estimated $300 million.  

Shahid Khan with a personalized Fulham jersey after purchasing the London club this past summer

This purchase made him one of six American businessmen to be owning a Premier League team, including the Glazer family at Manchester United, John Henry at Liverpool, Randy Lerner at Aston Villa, Ellis Short at Sunderland, and Stan Kroenke at Arsenal.  These six make up almost a third of the entire Premier League, a number much higher than the American representation in any other aspect of the league.

So what exactly is bringing these American investors to the Premier League?  Most of the owners claim that they are avid fans of the club and want to be a part of the rich history that the club entails.  However, more practical reasons underlie why they fork over several hundred million dollars for these clubs.  Shahid Khan said that, “the Premier League obviously has a huge global audience… It’s got a great media deal, it’s got great leadership at the top and most importantly a very, very passionate fan base and it’s an excellent business platform.”

TV deals are a large factor when it comes to earning profits.  According to the Tribune, the 20 clubs will split around $2.6 billion in new broadcast deals this season.  John Henry, the Liverpool and Boston Red Sox majority owner, interestingly told The Guardian that he bought the famous soccer club without ever really knowing anything about the game.  They understood the business behind it, recognizing the enticing profits made through these television deals.  In addition, these clubs come at a fraction of the price to other American sports franchises.  Because the Premier League is run in a way of possible relegations, large swings in income can occur if ones team does poorly and is relegated.  Therefore, these teams offer a higher risk and are sold at cheaper prices than in closed leagues.

Furthermore, the globalization of soccer, more specifically the Premier League, has offered these businessmen a way to globalize their brand.  Shahid Khan is the current owner of the NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars and has vowed to bring his team to London for a game in each of the next four seasons.  Additionally, most of the owners also own American sports franchises like the Jaguars or the Boston Red Sox.  These offer them a platform to gain more fans in America for their English teams.  The purchase of an English Premier League teams offers these Americans another outlet to spread their brand all over the world.

This influx in American owners also underlies the growing popularity of soccer in the United States.  An estimated over 24 million Americans are currently playing soccer with another millions and millions watching it every year.  NBC is continuing the trend by paying an estimated $250 million for the rights to air Premier League games in the US.  With the growth of the MLS as a competitively recognized league by the world, soccer interest in the US is becoming more common, and the influx of American owners in the Premier League is another big step.

These owners also seem to be helping the Premier League teams financially by running tighter budgets.  By owning American sports teams, they are often accustomed to limits imposed by the league to limit their spending including salary caps and luxury taxes.  The European governing body of soccer, UEFA, is encouraging teams to have more sustainable budgets, after years of Russian and Arab owners spending millions and millions of dollars for their respective clubs, most notably Roman Abromavich at Chelsea.  American businessman, Stan Kroenke, however, has invested in a business model that brings in over a $20 million operating budget annually, by being frugal with his spending.

With the popularity of soccer growing in the US and the popularity of owning soccer teams growing among rich investors, Americans could become a larger majority of not only the Premier League, but other popular leagues around the world, like the Bundesliga or La Liga.

References:

1) http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/jul/12/fulham-us-takeover-english-football

2) http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/premier-leagues-american-owners-not-2312593

3) http://tribune.com.pk/story/590590/us-owners-buy-in-to-new-era-for-premier-league-finances/

4) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/11/english-premier-league-is-now-an-american-billionaires-paradise.html

5) http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1729357-clint-dempsey-may-have-left-the-premier-league-but-the-us-invasion-continues

 

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Nov 03 2013

Profile Image of Halsey Friedel

English Football Must Install Better Standards for the Issue of Concussions

In case you missed it this morning, there was a very frightening moment during the Everton-Tottenham match. While attempting to get on the end of a long ball, Romelu Lukaku and Hugo Lloris had a terrible collision, where Lukaku’s knee ran directly into Hugo Lloris’s face, ending in both players being injured. However, Lloris’s was obviously the one with the more severe injury, as he laid face down on the grass for several minutes. The medical staff was called onto the pitch and stayed with him to check on his condition and help him regain composure. As one would expect following this frightening injury, Tottenham’s second-string keeper, Brad Friedel, started to warm-up to enter the game for his teammate. However, as Lloris was being ushered off of the field he started to fight back suggesting that he wished to stay in the game. While his dedication to his team was admirable, there was no way he should remain on the field following that sort of injury, especially with such a high severity risk of second-impact syndrome, which can significantly worsen any concussion. [1] But to the surprise of many, the commentators included, he remained on the field, and finished the game.

In the post game interview Tottenham manager, Andre Villas-Boas, was asked about this decision. He responded that he felt it was the right decision despite the fact that medical officials suggested a substitution, and that Lloris had mentioned that he could not remember what happened. [2] This information provided a clear indication that he should have been removed from the game to ensure future safety. However, this negligence is nothing new for the premier league, as Romelu Lukaku himself had a similar concussion scenario earlier this year. In a game against West Ham, Lukaku was knocked unconscious while scoring the game-winning goal and stated,  “I didn’t even know that I scored. …I didn’t remember what happened for a couple of seconds.” [3] Furthermore, he even played 3 days later in a cup match, showing a complete disregard for any sort of concussion monitoring, which is a serious issue.

In order to assess the English leagues’ true knowledge about concussions, a questionnaire was sent out at the beginning of the 2009/2010 season. [4] The results were quite surprising where only about three quarters of the teams in England that responded were aware of the Consensus in Sport guidelines pertaining to concussions. Furthermore, only a little over half of the teams used cognitive assessments following a concussion, and only a very small amount followed the review of symptoms and proper rest periods, thus demonstrating a significant mistreatment of the condition. If the English leagues truly want to ensure the safety of their players, they should take after the MLS concussion policies. [5] The MLS policy is a three-step system, where the player must pass cognitive tests, be symptom-free and have clearance from both the team doctor, and team appointed neuropsychologist, a new requirement for every team. If the English leagues truly want to ensure the greatest quality of football as well as the health of their players, they must take the steps necessary to better address this issue of concussions.

 

References:

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672291/

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2486571/Andre-Villas-Boas-admits-Lloris-remember-hit-Tottenham-manager-let-goalkeeper-carry-regardless.html

[3] http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/26/romelu-lukaku-situation-shows-need-for-premier-league-concussion-policy/

[4] http://group.bmj.com/group/media/latest-news/most-english-football-teams-don2019t-follow-international-guidelines-on-concussion

[5] http://espn.go.com/sports/soccer/news/_/id/7436065/mls-medical-staffers-target-concussion-protocol

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Sep 12 2013

Profile Image of Christopher Nam

The Dispensability of Coaches

The Mexican National soccer team has recently fired its head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, following its world cup qualifying loss to the U.S., hiring Victor Manuel Vucetich to replace him.  This is the third coaching change that the Mexican National team has made this past week.  The decision to fire coaches as the immediate response to poor results has become all too common throughout sports, especially soccer.  Coaches aren’t given the time to set their foundation, develop their players, and build team chemistry around their game plan.  They are expected to win, and to win as soon as they step into the office.  But is this constant shuffling of coaches good for teams who want success and to see their investments pan out? A report published by the League Managers Association showed that of the 92 professional teams in all levels of the Premier League, 63 of them made managerial changes: with 43 firings and 20 resignations in 2012-2013.  The average tenure for a manager is only 2.81 years, which includes the outlier of Arsene Wenger who’s been at Arsenal for 17 years.  Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner, has a reputation with committing knee jerk reactions when it comes to managers.  Under his ownership, he has had as many managers as Chelsea had the previous 70 years. 

I believe that this tradition of firing coaches as soon as any sign of failure becomes present is ruining the game of soccer.  A strong relationship between players and coaches is an essential aspect in building stability and chemistry within the team.  The manager needs time to build a rapport with his players in order to figure out each individual’s preferences and playing style so that he can fit each piece into his game plan.  Even players realize the importance of playing on a team with stability, which comes from an established coach that has a long, strong bond with his team.  Neymar was one of the biggest and sought after names this past summer with his eventual decision being to move to Barcelona.  One of the main reasons why he chose the La Liga team over another Premier League team was that he wanted stability.   The Premier League has gained a reputation of seeing coaches as easily replaceable, and being a quick fix to any problems.  If this trend continues, with players like Neymar opting for other leagues, the Premier League teams will have to seriously think about how they view their managers.

Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the greatest soccer managers of all time, needed four years to win his first trophy with 12 Premier League titles and two Champions League titles soon following.  Manchester United stuck with their manager even though results weren’t panning out because they realized the need of stability and the time it takes for a truly great manager to build a foundation for his team.  Most of the successful teams not only in soccer but in all sports generally have had long tenured managers that started out with limited success.  Another explicit example of this case comes from a Coach very important to me as a Duke student.  Coach Krzyzewski of the Duke Basketball team had two losing seasons in his first three years before establishing himself as one of the best coaches of all time.  Although most teams want to see immediate results and hope that new coaches are a quick fix, a true, long lasting investment takes time to establish.  For the sake of soccer, and the many teams aiming for success, I hope that these teams start to put stability as their number one priority and realize the importance of a commitment with a manager.

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Sep 12 2013

Profile Image of Austin Ness

What’s Wrong with the English National Team?

Greg Dyke gave his first speech on Wednesday as chairman of the Football Association, the governing body of English football.  His remarks confirmed what most football fans and pundits already suspected – that England have a poor chance of winning next year’s World Cup in Brazil.  ”I asked a bunch of journalists what would be seen as doing well in Brazil. The consensus was if we reach the quarter-finals we’ll do very well. That’s not to say we can’t win. But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s pretty hard to win in Latin America anyway for a European side. We’re certainly not going to go there as odds-on favourites, that’s for sure”, he added.  Dyke also began to outline his plan for reforming the English footballing system, as he aims to increase the number of English players in the Premier League, and ultimately help England have a realistic chance of winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

With every poor performance or embarrassing loss in a global tournament by England and its youth teams comes the inevitable flood of criticism and re-evaluation of the country’s footballing structure.  Every level of the game is scrutinized as the cause of the country’s failures, from the senior team all the way to the academies and youth sides.  This statement from Greg Dyke has provoked a similar reaction.  While English arrogance, conflicts between youth and senior teams, and poor coaching structure have all been pinpointed as clear areas of concern in the last week, the problems with English football are clearly complicated and multi-faceted.

Or maybe they just need to practice their penalties more? (Don’t watch this video if you’re an England fan.  It might ruin your day).

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Oct 11 2011

Profile Image of Charles Guice

Why English Football Will Adopt the NFL’s Rooney Rule

PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor

Early last month, senior executives from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the League Managers’ Association, the Football Association (FA), the Football League and the Premier League met with Cyrus Mehri, an American lawyer who, along with the late Johnnie Cochran and a labor economist, Janice Madden, drafted and successfully petitioned the National Football League (NFL) to adopt the “Rooney Rule,” the requirement that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate for any head-coaching vacancy. PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, who invited Mehri to speak, favors bringing the Rooney Rule to English football to increase the number of black and minority ethnics considered for and ultimately hired as managers.

Response to the meeting was swift and varied widely. While many agree that the number of black managers and coaches is surprisingly few, there is little agreement on how to address the issue or, as some have argued, whether any disparity exists at all. What may have been lost in the debate, however, are the clues that the decision has already been made, with the remaining point of discussion only being when and how the policy will be implemented.

Named after Dan Rooney, the chairman of the committee appointed by the NFL to review potentially discriminatory hiring practices, the Rooney Rule was ratified voluntarily by the thirty-two franchise owners in 2002. Under considerable public pressure, as well as the threat of legal action by Cochran and Mehri, the owners agreed to implement the rule the following year. The impact was immediate; within nine years, nineteen blacks had been named as head coaches for American football teams, and both coaches competing in the 2007 Super Bowl were African-American.

As early as 2003, a number of former players, such as Viv Anderson, England’s first black international, John Barnes and Luther Blissett, formed a group allied with the PFA and began petitioning for more black coaches and managers. Ten years earlier, Keith Alexander had become the first black to be appointed when he hired as manager for Lincoln City FC. But five years later, when Paul Ince became the first British-born black manager of a Premier League side, he was only the third to manage a professional league club.

While there have been 33 appointments since the 1992-93 season (apportioned amongst 17 individual managers), only two blacks are currently managing, Chris Hughton at Birmingham City and Chris Powell at Charlton Athletic. And a number of observers—within the sport, the media and amongst fans—have questioned whether the lack of black managers is a direct result of institutionalised racism.

That racism was once rife in English football is indisputable; in his memoir, First Among Unequals, Anderson wrote of bananas thrown on the pitch and hearing racist slurs when he first began playing. And though often rare now—as well as illegal in the UK—BME players have been subjected to racial abuse as recently as the 2011/12 season.

In 2008, some within the game began urging that the Rooney Rule be adopted in English football. Chief amongst those were blacks who felt they had been denied opportunities to even interview for open managerial vacancies. The most recent push for parity, however, began in earnest earlier this year.

Ellis Cashmore and Jamie Cleland, two researchers at Staffordshire University in Stoke-on-Trent, published the results of a survey of 1,000 fans, professional players, referees, coaches and managers. In their study, Why aren’t there more black football managers?, Cashmore and Cleland reported that more than 50% of the respondents believed that racism existed in football’s top ranks, and fully a third supported the adoption of a “British” Rooney Rule.

And in March, during an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, Taylor publicly signaled his intent when he said:

All I can think of is that if things don’t start to improve we’ll look at a rule that demands that clubs have to at least have a good selection and include former black players—fully qualified—as coaches. Our job is to try and get them in the first place fully qualified then there’s no excuse not to interview them, and, then, to get them involved with the interview process.

Several months earlier, the FA had replaced the FA Coaches Association with the Licensed Coaches’ Club, addressing one of the common reasons Taylor cited that is often given for the lack of non-white managers—fully qualifying candidates. Developed to ensure that coaches kept their training and qualifications current, the Licensed Coaches’ Club was also established to ensure that persons interested in coaching—at any level of the game—gained the proper qualifications.

Over the summer, the FA launched a second component of its broader initiative; an equality drive aimed specifically at promoting coaching opportunities to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Coach, a film produced by the FA, is specific in its intent: to increase the number of black and Asian coaches in management positions, spotlighting both the professional and grass roots game.

At the film’s premiere at Wembley Stadium, FA Chairman David Bernstein commented, “the football family recognises the underrepresentation at the top level.” “Hopefully,” he went on to add, “today is the start of redressing that imbalance.” But Lord Herman Ouseley, the Chair of Kick It Out, the PFA/FA campaign established to bolster equality and inclusion in football, addressed what is likely one of the issue’s most significant factors when he said, “it’s important that football is showing to the world in this country how it can lead.”

Because absent from many of the discussions is an acknowledgement that English football has become a lucrative global enterprise. In addition to advertising, ticket sales, naming rights and merchandising, broadcasting rights—reportedly £1,4bn/US$2,17bn for the 2012/13 international rights alone—now constitute a substantial portion of revenue for the twenty premier league clubs. The Manchester United fan base, for example, extends outside of the UK to millions worldwide, and other clubs, such as Arsenal and Manchester City, are also looking to significantly expand their numbers of international supporters.

Setting aside the debate as to whether BMEs are intentionally excluded from coaching positions, the perception amongst a significant number is that they are, and multinational enterprises must strive to avoid any hint of bias and discrimination—as well as the associated adverse publicity. Correspondingly, how English football is perceived vis-à-vis its hiring practices can have a direct impact on its revenue and profit.

Additionally, while the debate has largely been shaped around the sizeable number of black players in the league, the focus of the current PFA and FA initiatives is on British-born black and minority ethnic groups. On the March 5 Live programme, Taylor remarked:

I find it astonishing that we can import the likes of Jean Tigana and Ruud Gullit and there’s no problem, but our own lads who have grown up in this country have not been given a chance to be fairly represented.

Considering that British-born BMEs only constitute 15% of the players in the top division—with a combined average of 18% in the Football League—Taylor’s statement is worth noting, particularly given the higher percentages, which are so often quoted. (The higher figure, currently 28%, represents both British and foreign-born players.) It is conceivable, then, just as their NFL counterparts concluded in 2002, that football’s governing bodies have determined that it is more prudent to formalise its hiring practices before they are legislated.

Notwithstanding the moral and societal implications, it has become an imperative that British football reflects the sports’ diversity, both on the field and in the back office. Because in what has become a £7,7bn/US$12bn entertainment industry—one that contributes substantially to the larger economy of Britain—English Football must maintain its competitiveness as “the world’s most favourite league,” as well as its appeal to an increasingly global audience. Adopting the Rooney Rule, which is neither affirmative action nor a requirement that BME candidates be hired, may simply be good business.

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Jul 09 2011

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

The Global Future of Women’s Football

Today’s World Cup matches, alternately exhilarating and devastating, were a powerful demonstration of the global strength of women’s football. Though of course both German and England fans are deeply disappointed tonight, the upending of traditional hierarchies in the game — exemplified by Japan’s surprise victory over Germany — can be read as a good sign for the future of the game. The competition is fierce, diverse and surprising, and it is so despite long-standing inequalities and lack of support from national federations: it is where it is because of the work of devoted and talented coaches and players, a number of whom we say play themselves literally into the ground today.

I expected the France-England match up to be the nail-biter of the day. It certainly was one: grueling for the players, and pretty grueling for fans of both teams too. I went into the game rooting for France, who played beautifully. When you root for France, you often find yourself twisted around on the floor, unbelieving, because so often beautiful play doesn’t lead to wins or goals. Today I felt that sinking feeling several times, and in fact was convinced England was going to win for much of the game, down the end.

The drama of the games was enough to pull my son — normally impervious to the seductions of football — into the fray, and he drew a picture of Jill Scott’s goal against France that somehow captures for me some of the anguish and madness of the game. (He has an illustrious history of drawing soccer games.)

I never stopped rooting for France, but somehow I also started rooting for England too. (I realize this is not really good for one’s mental health.) I couldn’t root against them, as they broke up the French attacks, soldiered on incredibly well despite injuries, into additional time. Their play was tenacious, heroic, and in it’s own way epic. At a certain point, I just couldn’t stand watching the game anymore. I left the room twice — during the last minutes of the game, and again during PKs. I missed France’s last-minute goal, and I watched the penalty kicks out of the corner of my eye, with the sound turned off. Either outcome seemed somehow tragic, for both teams had brought an incredible level of play to the field. Watching this again later, though, I was impressed by the relatively cool and clinical way the last 4 French players shot their kicks, especially given the fact that Abily’s was blocked. Congratulations to France for going to the semi-finals for the first time in history, and equally strong condolences to England who should and could just as easily have been there.

My afternoon plan — to follow the certain triumph of Germany from a distance — was disrupted by the brilliant play of the Japanese. I was pulled back to the screen. That game will probably overshadow the England-France game in the history of the women’s World Cup for many for it’s thoroughly unexpected,  course and outcome. I can only imagine the sorrow emanating from the pores of many German fans, but can’t help feeling elation too for the history-making Japanese team. How are we supposed to live with so much contradictory emotion, so many cross-currents of loyalty and meaning? Football is enough to drive you crazy on a day like today.

The only consolation, perhaps, is what a powerful statement both teams made today about the power and drama of women’s soccer, it’s capacity not just to equal but in many ways surpass men’s teams, and the future it certainly deserves — if only the media and football federations can understand that. These games should push us to begin to think carefully, and comparatively, about how the various professional leagues and academies in different countries have enabled countries like Japan and France to do so well in this cup. We tend to think about this in the U.S. in relation to the high of 1999, and the question of why women’s football has struggled professionally and in a way never gotten back to the level of interest it garnered then. But there’s a much larger global story at work here: the U.S. women’s team deserves tremendous credit for having pushed forward the women’s game internationally, putting pressure on other federations in other countries to catch up. The intensity of the competition this year is a testament to the fact that the U.S. (along with traditional powerhouses like Germany, or else Norway and China which didn’t even qualify this year) will never again be able to assume dominance in the global competition. That is hard, of course, for those teams, but it’s a sign of the health and vigor of the game worldwide.

We obviously should not to be too sanguine about what all this means for the future of women’s football. There has been so much holding back the development of the women’s game, as Jennifer Doyle and John Turnbull have eloquently explained in recent pieces. The low level support given to many women’s teams is despicable, media coverage is still unequal and dogged by sexism, and FIFA and many national federations should be held to account for cynical policies and a lack of commitment to the coherent development of the women’s game. If we are able to be so enthralled by the play in this World Cup, it is only because — against the odds, generation to generation — players and managers have shown a commitment to the development of the game that shone through in today’s exhausting and exhilarating performances.

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Nov 17 2010

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Karim! Redux: France 2, England 1

An irruption of football into an otherwise glum Wednesday afternoon: what could be better?

Even better since it delivered a nice showing today by the French team, to my relief. And in Wembley no less. Between the two teams, France is clearly limping out of the hospital a little more quickly, it seems. Though it must have been a stressful afternoon for Arsene Wenger, as Liz Hottel pointed out.

What is so pleasing about this is that they not only pass the ball around nicely and set up good plays, but the result is actually, with some frequency, the scoring of goals, rather than a perpetual string of near misses. They seem at ease on the pitch, able to build up, with a certain understanding. It’s like watching a real football team! The first goal here by Benzema was inspiring.

Meanwhile, nice to see the U.S. do well against South Africa, and nice too to see the Cape Town Stadium — where I spent a delicious evening watching Holland-Uruguay this past World Cup — being used for the event, a fund-raiser for the Mandela Children’s Fund. Peter Alegi provided this nice preview of the match-up, and of U.S. soccer more broadly, from his perch in Cape Town, and a nice report from the game. I also recommend his excellent dispatches of the recent African Women’s World Cup, also played in South Africa in recent weeks, culminating in a victory for Nigeria.

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