New FA Chief Executive Must Go Back To Basics
Yesterday the FA announced that they are appointing Ian Watmore as their new chief executive.
As a man, Watmore comes with considerable experience. Proclaimed a true “football man” (how many times have you heard that cliché rung out by incoming FA Chief Execs?), Watmore is an Arsenal fan, though he regularly attends Altrincham matches and has a son in the Manchester United academy. He was formerly a member of the Civil Service, as is believed in the FA to have strong leadership and flair to the post.
The announcement of Watmore's appointment was greeted with little in the way of fanfare, little press coverage and little comment. But in an era where FA Chief Executives have been featured as commonly on the front pages of newspapers as they have on the backpages then perhaps this is no bad thing.
For Watmore has a difficult task awaiting him. His role in the FA is one where his predecessors could well have been hit with the charge of “bringing the game into disrepute.”
In recent times the FA have been seen as almost the arbiters of their own destruction, take Palios and the Faria Alam scandal or Brian Barwick, and that oh so public dalliance with Big Phil Scolari. In each regard the FA have left themselves open (deservedly or not) to the most fiercest of criticism by all quarters of the footballing community.
This is where Watmore will have his toughest task, for his job will not simply be ensuring that the FA works efficiently as a business and footballing authority, but he must also build bridges with the footballing community as a whole.
The FA is viewed as too passive in some lower league quarters, against the aggressive businessmen of the Premier League, and some feel that the FA have in their haste to appease these men have ignored the interests of the very people it was set up to serve.
But in Watmore, they must hope they have a man with whom their interests could find very real expression, and perhaps even fulfilment of their demand for more of a say in footballing matters, though tackling the Premier League juggernaut head on would be difficult, undoubtedly the FA would do well to pay more interest to the fortunes and finances of the lower leagues.
Furthermore in youth development, there must be a hope that in Watmore, the FA have a man who can push forward their plans to build a National Football Centre. Though Watmore cannot directly influence those plans, there must be a hope that under new leadership these plans can finally, after years of yearning, reach fruition through sound leadership and ambition.
For these issues, of lower league football, and youth development that are the very lifeblood of the English game, and should be central to the FA's thinking, though after years of red-top scandal and accusations of greed, many feel that the FA has lost sight of these very principles.
So in a sense, Watmore must take the FA back to its very basic objectives, to serve the football community as a whole, and encouraging youth development, as well as steering clear of any possible PR disasters, perhaps then the FA can begin to win back the hearts and minds of the British public.
Undoubtedly Watmore is arriving at a fortunate time, for England as a team look to be progressing under Capello from the nadir of Mclaren's final days, and the FA as a company is making profits.
But as the saying goes, fortune favours the brave, and one must hope that in Watmore, the FA has appointed not just a brave man, but the right man for English football.
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