Now, we all know that the bigwigs at the FA have a widely perceived lack of intelligence when it comes to serious football matters. However, there is a prominent problem staring them in the face, namely a discernible lack of public interest in the affairs on the national team.
The debacle of Brazil 2014 left English football at an all-time low and now it is time for the FA to stop burying their heads in the sand and take some action. Just over 40,000 people saw England labour to a win in their first game since the World Cup against Norway.
The national stadium debate is a fascinating one; I am of the opinion that England should consider moving their games away from Wembley and take the show on the road, thus creating and fostering interest in the affairs of the national team nationwide.
We can learn a lot from the example of Spanish football, both on and off the pitch. In 2014, Spain’s national team have travelled the length and breadth of the country, playing in Valencia, Madrid and Sevilla, and they have games scheduled in Vigo and the lesser known city of Huelva. By staging games around the country, they give a greater percentage of the population the chance to see the national team play, thus expanding the fan base and creating more and more interest as they go.
In England, we play all of our games at Wembley, and people simply aren’t interested. The extraordinary amount of money spent on the stadium would have been better invested in grassroots football, coaching and player development.
In Spain, the relationship between the fans and their team is phenomenal; you only have to look at the reaction of the country as a whole during the three successive tournament wins. In a country where the economic crisis has taken hold, football is an escape. In blighty, it’s just another reason to be pessimistic.
Around the country, we have a plethora of stadia which could easily host an international game and draw a bigger crowd than Wembley did vs Norway. Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, the Midlands and even London itself would offer some fantastic venues and a hostile atmosphere which would have even the biggest sides feeling the nerves. Playing at Wembley doesn’t have the fear factor anymore, one only has to look back to David Beckham’s free kick vs Greece in 2001 and ask if the new Wembley has had a similar moment. A barrage of shirts and ties, corporate prices and generally overpriced everything are pricing the everyday football fan away from watching their national team play. If we are to be successful going into Switzerland 2016 and beyond, it has to change.
I understand that moving away from Wembley would mean a massive loss in the short term, but in the long term it could bring back the passion that is lacking in our game right now. The FA needs to take a long hard look at things, we are no longer the force we used to be, and we are in serious risk of losing our fan base, which can often be the best in the world.
In short, take the show on the road and get the fans back onside, invest in the areas that need investment and maybe, just maybe we will have a future to be excited about and not one littered with failure and embarrassment on the world stage.
By Tom Perrin – Wolves fan – @