The future of English football will always be a widely debated topic among football fans. With ever-increasing transfer fees and premier league clubs racking up huge debts to compete with each other, it’s important to ask: how should we invest in the future of English football?
I recently completed a course to obtain my FA Level 1 football coaching badge. Luckily for me it was funded by my local club. This badge is the first and cheapest in the long path towards obtaining the full range of FA and UEFA coaching badges available.
While on the course we were introduced to the new St George’s Park National Football Centre and shown the benefits and facilities that it will offer to players and coaches in the future. The new world-class facility centre hosts an indoor 3G pitch, 11 external pitches, running tracks, a training hill, sports medicine centre and dedicated goalkeeper areas.
The new facility is undeniably impressive and will be invaluable to the England squad, however, unless younger players have learnt the fundamental football skills before they get to use St George’s facility at 15,16 or 17, it seems too little too late.
So with £120 million spent on this facility alone, I have to ask, was it really worth it and what should we really be doing to invest in UK football of the future?
Investing into our local sporting and training facilities will create home-grown talent at an early stage and avoid the ever growing transfer fees which are leading, in my opinion, many much loved football clubs into unmanageable, and unrecoverable debt.
What the other countries do
Whilst our national sport has been crying out for investment at grassroots level to train successful future coaches and players, I question why we haven’t followed suit from our European colleagues.
Holland, Germany and Spain alike all offer the same standard of resources at a regional level that St Georges Park has such as good outdoor and indoor pitches, high quality changing rooms and restaurants within their complex.
It’s clear to see the connection between the resources they offer regionally and the young promising players and coaches they go on to produce.
These players will go on to train at places like FC Barcelona’s La Masia youth system and the excellent academy at Ajax in Amsterdam, which between them have produced the likes of Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, Puyol, Sneijder, Nigel De Jong, Stekelenburg, Van Der Wiel, all of which played in the World Cup Final 2010.
So where should the money go?
It follows that if clubs in England were bringing through better academy players, less money would be spent on transfer fees to buy foreign players.
This also means fewer English clubs going into debt to compete with the gap being created by the richer clubs in the Premier League.
You only have to look at the Spanish La Liga which has 80% of Spanish Nationals playing in the league contrasting vastly to the English Premier League of which just 39% of English Nationals play for.
The Spanish league is in £1.6 billion debt compared to England’s £2.8 billion.
Interestingly the total transfer fees spend for England in summer 2012 was a massive £490 million compared to Spain’s comparatively small sum of £84 million.
According to these figures, we could be saving nearly four times the amount we spent on St George’s football centre if we had the talent coming through locally.
The future of football
I was fortunate to have my first coaching badge funded by my local club however most English clubs don’t have the financial capabilities to sponsor promising coaches – mainly due to the costs of the coaching badges but also due to the fact that coaches funding themselves is completely unrealistic, considering the current financial climate.
In essence, I believe the huge amounts of money being spent on our nation’s number one passion, isn’t being invested where it’s needed most.
As we continue to neglect much needed local investment, we risk losing the potential to compete with the rest of the world forever.
Please Daniel Etchells previous blog post for more information on this topic.