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Just what football needs?

After University Chancellor Greg Dyke was announced as the next Chairman of the Football Association, Tom Fennelly asks if the former BBC Director General is the right man to govern English football

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University Chancellor Greg Dyke is set to take over as FA Chairman in July. Image: Stripey Anne via flickr Creative Commons.
University Chancellor Greg Dyke is set to take over as FA Chairman in July. Image: Stripey Anne via flickr Creative Commons.


It was announced yesterday that our very own Chancellor (and thankfully not our Vice-Chancellor), Greg Dyke, will be installed as the Chairman of the Football Association in July of this year. I know what you're all thinking, as a former Director General of the BBC, what the bloody hell does he know about football?

According to Dyke, he knows as much about it as you and I do. He reliable assures the press that he has actually played football before.

He was brought up in his household led by a football-mad dad, who was more interested in how Dyke had done in his football matches rather than his exam results. Dyke played Sunday league football on 11-a-side teams, whilst also playing 6-a-side on a Thursday evening when he was not marred by injury. Raised near Brentford, he supported them when he was younger and later became their non-executive chairman in 2006. During his time at York, he followed York City (something more students today should do), whilst supporting Manchester United his whole life, despite the rest of his family supporting Tottenham. Before his time at the BBC, he was a non-executive director on the United board.

Clearly, he knows his football. But I sincerely hope this isn't the sole reason for his appointment; if the FA went on this alone then even I could be the next FA chairman - my love of Tottenham Hotspur and Stevenage testify this, along with my dogged success on Football Manager. Using this logic, Kallum Taylor himself could become a future FA chairman; he's been YUSU President, and his interesting choice of shorts as Vanbrugh's goalkeeper means he knows his football. There must be other reasons behind Dyke's appointment. Perhaps he's simply a good businessman.

Dyke's predecessor and current chairman is David Bernstein, another football fan who is a chartered accountant by trade; it was his success as Manchester City chairman from 1998-2003 that warranted him the job in 2011. Good businessmen seem to fit the bill at the FA because, after all, football is about business. Dyke, as a successful journalist and TV programmer (and a founder of Channel 5) seems to fit the bill of non-footballing, football-enthusiast rulers of the English game.

Since the creation of the first football clubs, they have had to run themselves like a business; a club will make money through tickets, merchandise and advertising in order to pay for its staff, players, and ground. Any profit made can be used to invest in the club through facilities or new players. Footballers don't run football clubs; they're simply used as commodities to bring about success.

Thus, the business people who run football clubs will make the best candidates to run its governing body - the FA. Not necessarily. The majority of them haven't played the game at a professional level; they're just businessmen with a personal interest in the sport. This will be great for the business of the sport (i.e. Wembley Stadium Limited), but there are more hard-talking, nitty-gritty issues away from the business of football.

Racism, homophobia, depression - these are some of football's biggest problems that can't be solved with a glossy business plan. These are the problems faced directly by the sportsmen themselves; an executive board of accountants or ex-journalists will not be the best people to deal with them.

The Kick It Out anti-racism campaign hasn't gone far enough; racism simply isn't a case of being telling people to 'stop being racist'. The high-profile Suarez and Terry sagas cast an unhealthy shadow over the sport, whilst many professionals at all levels say it still goes on and is largely ignored.

Robbie Rogers was a Leeds winger, who I saw play a few times during his loan-spell at Stevenage; the young American international had a decent football career ahead of him. He was released by Leeds in February this year and, shortly after, he retired from the game after coming out as a homosexual at the age of 25. The fact that he felt unable to continue in the sport as a known homosexual highlights a huge dark side in the culture of football.

Infamously in 2009, German goalkeeper Robert Enke committed suicide after suffering from depression, an illness than many professionals footballers themselves agree is a major problem. There are other notable names: Dale Roberts, Gary Speed, Dave Clement. The list, sadly, continues to grow.

There are other problems that lie deep in the heart of the game, for instance drug-taking and match-fixing. All of these issues are endemic in the football culture under the governance of the FA, yet not much seems to change. In another Twitter rant, Marseilles midfielder Joey Barton argues that appointing bureaucrats at the top of the game has proven ineffective over the past few decades. For once, I agree with him.

Following this line, I fear Greg Dyke's reign at the FA will bring about no major changes to football. It's about time the home of the world's most popular sport was governed by the people who have the real expertise to deal with its inner demons.

Good luck, Greg. You'll need it.

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