Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has put his support behind a change to the game's disciplinary rules as he opened the Leaders in Football Summit at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Dyke used the example of The FA's decision not to take action against Chelsea striker Fernando Torres for scratching Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen. Although The FA altered its rules in the summer to make it easier to take retrospective action using video evidence, it was unable to charge Torres as part of the incident had been seen by a match official.
Dyke also outlined his vision for continued development of the grassroots game, focusing on developing the coaches and volunteers who give of their time, and spoke about the English game's global reach.
"Good morning Ladies and Gentleman. I am delighted to be the first speaker in the Leaders in Football Conference here at Stamford Bridge today.
"I am also pleased the conference is being held here because this is one of the great grounds of English football, steeped in a wonderful history. It’s also one I know well.
"As a West London boy I came here a lot at as a kid not because I was a Chelsea fan but because my best mate was, and I used to come with him. I must admit I have mixed memories of standing in the old Shed End, pretending to support Chelsea, struggling to see the pitch on terraces which weren’t made for short people, and then being carried down the steps on the way out by the those around me.
"I remember coming here in the mid sixties and seeing George Best sent off after being kicked all over the park by Chopper Harris; and I remember coming in the nineties, by then I was on the Board of Manchester United, seeing Nicky Butt sent off for chinning Dennis Wise who had grabbed him by the testicles when the referee wasn’t watching.
"Of course today one of the 35 cameras would have spotted what Dennis Wise had done and he’d no doubt be up on some sort of FA charge – or maybe not judging by recent events.
"Jokes aside there’s a very important point to be made following the incident involving Fernando Torres and Jan Vertonghen at White Hart Lane last week.
"For The FA’s disciplinary department to find itself in a position in which they don’t feel they have the authority to take action for what was an obvious scratch to the face can't be right.
"What this means is that despite the rules being changed in the summer to allow action to be taken in instances which were not properly seen by the officials they clearly weren’t changed enough.
"When millions of fans watching on television around the world can see an incident like this and The FA does not take action it is understandably baffling to everyone and has to be addressed.
"As Chairman of The FA I don’t like being in a position where I don’t understand, nor can’t explain, why action has not been taken in cases which are quite so obvious.
"I should be clear that it is not The FA in isolation who decide on these rules but the stakeholders across the game.
"Back to Chelsea. The Nicky Butt incident happened in the days when Ken Bates was still in charge here. On the board of United we were always overwhelmed by his friendliness and charm. I remember once getting stuck in the traffic on the way here so I arrived late with my ten year old son only to be confronted by Ken who looked up and said 'you are too late for lunch” and then pointing at my son, he added “and he’s too young for the boardroom anyway.' Of course they were the days when Ken wouldn’t let women in the boardroom either. How did we all let him get away with it?
"Stamford Bridge has seen afternoons and evenings of great tension, drama and of course rich excitement – and that’s just in the boardroom. However I am not promising any such entertainment here this morning although I recognise after my first major speech as Chairman of The FA some may have come along for that reason.
"I also understand that at least one of my predecessors came to this conference and, rather unwisely, used the opportunity to have a go at others in the hall. That won’t be my approach today, I’m not even tempted.
"In my first key speech as Chairman of The FA I set out what I believe to be the biggest immediate challenge to the English game – namely the shortage of English players playing regularly within the Premier League or the other leading European Leagues. My view was that this wasn’t helping the England team and that I agreed with the PFA when they said: 'What is at stake is not just the future of the England team, but the fundamental right of English players to rise as far as their talent will take them. That right is now denied. The truth is that we have become a finishing school for the rest of the world, at the expense of our own players.'
"I made it clear that I believed this was my No1 priority and I was deliberately narrow and focussed in my analysis. That was not to dismiss the wider context as unimportant or irrelevant, rather to be clear about the specific problem and the need English football has to address it.
"I have been pleased with the collective response of the game to my speech and there is a great deal of work ahead of us in my commission. What has been particularly gratifying has been the number of fans I’ve met or who have stopped me in the street since then who have said in effect 'we’ve been saying that for years and at last someone is taking the problem seriously.'
"There has been a lot of work undertaken on this front already and can I say thank you to the many people across the game who have already spoken to us – some confidentially, some to, but that is all for another day.
"This morning, however, I am going to disappoint the journalists amongst you. Whereas my first speech filled acres of newspaper space, was widely reported on radio and television and started a lively debate which is still going on, this one won’t. It is deliberately intended to be more reflective.
"By definition leadership is transitory. Today we are the self styled “Leaders in Football” – that’s why we are here. For a comparatively short period we have the power to shape and define what is happening to our game. However we also have to accept we are only temporary guardians.
"In this, the very month of the 150th anniversary of The FA’s formation, it would seem appropriate to consider the responsibility that comes with the role of being a leader in football.
"Looking around the room this morning I see by and large the collection of men and women whom in 2013 take on that role, who take on the responsibility to organise and govern our game. We are in essence no different from the founding fathers who gathered just down the road 150 years ago to have a pint in the Freemasons Tavern and write down the first laws of the game - although to be fair there are more of us these days.
"Those original 11 sat with a pint in their hand and faced a challenge – how to formalise and codify a pastime, at times a very violent pastime, into a recognisable sport? To codify it in a way that could be replicated and shared by all. To codify it in a way to encourage participation and fair competition.
"Ultimately those men who sat and invented our game asked one fundamental question – what game are we to pass on to future generations? Which is the same question we need to ask ourselves today.
"By and large many generations of ‘leaders in football’ have done a pretty good job. There have been ups and downs, false starts and new dawns – for instance it didn’t help the development of women’s football in England that The FA thought the game unsuitable for women and banned it for something like 50 years.
"But overall football is an incredible global success story and we should never forget it was invented here 150 years ago on the 26th of October 1863 and that the first ever official football match was played just three or four miles up the road from here on Barnes Common a couple of months later.
"One hundred and fifty years on, the amount of people who now play and enjoy football around the world is truly phenomenal. The Premier League alone is beamed into 804 million homes around the globe each year with an incredible 217,000 hours of programming around the World and The FA Cup is broadcast into 150 countries with the final reaching five hundred million around the world.
"We should never underestimate the power of football. I was in Uganda earlier this year and our driver was pulled in by the police – something which in Uganda usually results in a donation to the particular policeman who has stopped you. Instead I asked him which football team he supported. He said Manchester United. I said me too. He beamed and waved us on.
"Mind you if he’d said Chelsea or anyone else I would have also said 'me too'!
"Alongside all that watching, there’s an awful lot of playing going on too - FIFA estimate that 265 million people play football every year, and in England alone The FA looks after some 7 million diverse players of the game and around 113,000 grassroots clubs and of course on top of that there are millions more kicking the ball around the local park with makeshift goalposts or playing six a side games they have organised in the local sports centre or sports hall.
"But, with football’s global reach, professional clubs no longer stop at providing opportunity on their doorstep. Our hosts today Chelsea, for example, through their Foundation, were working in Jakarta over the summer creating a soccer school partnership, training coaches and players alike and leaving a Blue Pitch behind for the next generation to enjoy and learn the game.
"I am assuming Chopper Harris wasn’t one of the Chelsea coaches sent out to teach the beautiful game.
"Today the numbers playing and watching our game are well beyond the wildest dreams of our founding fathers – but just as they met to consider their guardianship of the game 150 years ago, so should we. In recent years it is the pace of change that has presented us all with the biggest challenges.
"Changes like domestic and global broadcasting deals of enormous value and reach impacting the traditional balance of competition and solidarity.
"A professional game that transcends national boundaries which challenges the link between clubs, their local communities and their football associations.
"A grassroots game fighting to retain participants in the face of alternative pastimes, reduced local authority funding and increased bureaucracy.
"My question today is therefore this. In facing these challenges “what are the principles that should guide us?” in this our contemporary Freemason's Tavern.
"By way of response I offer four principles from my own experience in the game. This is by no means an exhaustive view, but I hope they resonate with you all and the wider game.
"Firstly I believe that we should seek to maintain the universality of the game on the pitch. It must be a fundamental principle that what you see out here at Stamford Bridge on a Saturday afternoon should be the same game as those played on a Sunday morning on every parks pitch in the country. The simplicity and universality of football is all important – it maintains the link between all the participants and creates the virtuous circle that inspires every boy or girl to get out there and do it.
"Let me be clear, that does not mean I oppose innovation and the introduction of new technology into the elite end of the game - far from it. I do think we have a responsibility to innovate at the top level, particularly where the integrity of decision making can be enhanced. But I also believe that innovations can be made while respecting the core fundamentals of the game itself.
"Secondly I believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that the global game does not blur its distinctive national and community identities. And that clearly is a danger here in England with so many foreign owners, managers and players.
"International competition is the bedrock of sport and is one of its greatest assets. The audience figures for England matches demonstrate just how much international matches resonate within the national psyche. International football is a wonderful way of bringing nations together, fostering relationships and aiding education and development. This week we will welcome Montenegro to Wembley. A small but proud nation with a difficult recent history – I suspect their unexpected success on the international football stage has done more for their national identity, pride and the international understanding of that region than could ever have been achieved by politics or diplomacy.
"Likewise at the domestic level I believe it is absolutely possible for a club to be global in its outlook and reach but remain grounded in its local community. I am constantly impressed by the great work that so many professional clubs put into their community schemes.
"School programmes, social action outreach, engaging with excluded groups - the breadth and depth is impressive. And this isn’t only happening at the richer clubs like Chelsea where they have the resources to take on these responsibilities, it’s happening right across the Leagues and down through the pyramid.
"No matter how global our game we are all defined by where we are from – our communities take pride in their football clubs and I believe it to be important that our clubs take pride in their communities in return.
"Thirdly I believe football (and English football especially) should be very proud of its redistributive principles. This is a core part of our approach as a sport – that value generated at the top end of the game should be used to support re-investment in the grassroots. The FA alone invests around £100m a year back into the grassroots of the game. This money goes into community facilities, youth coaching programmes, women’s and disability football. It supports the County FAs in their tireless efforts to administrate the game effectively; it helps to develop coaches and referees; and supports clubs up and down the footballing pyramid. Our investment sits alongside the substantial investment of the clubs themselves and also with partnership funding from Government. Collectively our efforts in recent years have driven a £780m facility programme delivered by the Football Foundation – but on facilities in particular there will always be more that can be done, more that ought to be done.
"Finally I believe it is beholden of us that we invest in and value all the people involved in the game while always offering a pathway for those with exceptional talent. In fact, as I’ve already said, one of the questions my commission will be asking is 'is that pathway currently blocked for too many?'
"From the earliest age we should be clear about giving children the right physical foundation to progress into the game at any level. Our FA Skills programme works with kids as young as five to build their physical literacy and give them a good technical grounding in the game. But the challenge to reach 18,000 primary schools is considerable and if we fail to meet it too many boys and girls will miss the opportunity to receive high quality coaching at the earliest and most vital age.
"I often quote my sister in law – who sadly died earlier this year – as an example of where there is still so much more to be done. She was a primary school teacher who turned up one year for the new school year to discover she had been put in charge of football at her primary school.
"Now she was a great teacher but her knowledge of football was zero and her interest was even less. If she’d had Ronaldo in her class she would probably have written in his report “needs to work harder at maths” and never mentioned football at all. Let’s not kid ourselves that problem still exists in too many schools.
"We should also recognise our duty of care to all players and participants in the game – that means at a grassroots level having safe and secure environments that are inclusive to all individuals and communities; and in the professional game addressing issues such as third party ownership and trafficking of young players, right through to supplying the right support and advice for players who either don’t make it out of the academy or for older players struggling to deal with retirement.
"We must continue to build coaching into a profession to be proud of. Good teaching is the essence of success in all walks of life, and without the weight of knowledge, experience and ability to transfer learning on to all our participants the game will suffer. That is why St. George’s Park and its mission to revolutionise coach education and qualification is so vital to the English game.
"And we must never forget our volunteers. Over 400,000 of them in England alone, keeping the game running week in week out. No matter what level you have reached in the game, your path will have been made possible by the tireless work of one or more individuals along the way. As the leaders of the game we all of us here today stand on their shoulders.
"I was delighted that on Monday we were able to honour a small number of volunteers in a special reception at Buckingham Palace with our President the Duke of Cambridge who had persuaded his grandmother to let us borrow her garden for a football match. I am told she was slightly nervous but his persuasive charms seemed to work.
"It was a very special day for those there and it was important that in this our 150th year the wider work of the grassroots community was celebrated.
"So four principles to guide our guardianship. A game which is:
- universal and simple on the pitch;
- proud of its national and local identities;
- redistributive and nurturing of its grassroots;
- valuing and supportive of its people at every stage of their involvement.
"They are, as I said at the outset, four principles that I offer up to guide us. You may have others and I would openly welcome your thoughts.
"Of course in reality we are all making decisions on a daily basis away from such abstract thoughts and doing so in the face of deadlines, budgets and media scrutiny which means we are all accountable – to our fans, to our members, to our owners, to our colleagues.
"But ultimately we are also all of us collectively accountable for the guardianship of the game – and in the spirit of those founding fathers I think it is important for us all to come together, once in a while, as leaders in football to ignore the day to day trials and hassles and to ask ourselves this one simple question: 'How we want to leave the game once our time is run'."