Oliver Holt on Greg Dyke's speech: If you care about the England team, what he said needed saying – Oliver Holt

Julian Finney

For some years now, we have danced around the problem.

Sometimes, lest we should be accused of being politically incorrect, we have pretended there isn’t a problem.

We have fiddled and watched as the England team burned in sacrifice to the power of our Premier League clubs.

On Wednesday, Greg Dyke changed that.

The new FA chairman did not offer any solutions to the growing imbalance between club and country. And .

But at least he confronted the issue and confronted it in that no one in his position has confronted it before.

He unleashed a blizzard of statistics about how few English players now break through into Premier League teams.

Then he went further.

“This is a league largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players,” he said.

The room at the top of the Millbank Tower, gazing down over the Thames and the Houses of Parliament, hushed.

When there is so much to admire about our Premier League and the entertainment it provides, it seemed like an inconvenient truth.

As Dyke recognised, it also sounded like a statement that was flirting with xenophobia.

But that is part of the problem.

Because we admire so much of the polyglot, meritocratic nature of the Premier League, it sometimes seems wrong to find any fault with it.

If the league existed in isolation, the increasing prevalence of foreign players would not be an issue.

But because so many now believe that the lack of opportunities for English players is affecting the health of the national team, it is an issue.

So Dyke said what he said and good luck to him.

If you care about the England team – and television viewing figures suggest that many millions of us still do – what he said needed saying.

It might pay for Dyke to be mindful that the last time one of his predecessors – Lord Triesman – voiced even mild criticism of the ethos of the Premier League, he was treated as if he had committed great sacrilege and was portrayed by many thereafter as a dangerous lunatic.

There is no reason why that should happen again.

There is no reason why football in this country should not find a consensual way forward.


Nor can the FA have it all ways.

They are not in a position of strength. If they want the Premier League to give a little, they have to give a little, too.

Dyke is, for instance, on the wrong side of the argument when it comes to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Like UEFA boss Michel Platini, the FA chairman thinks the best solution is to , playing havoc with European leagues.

The Premier League, quite rightly, is fiercely opposed to that prospect and the danger is that FIFA’s gerrymandering of the voting process will hasten the decline of the international game.

Dyke is right to crave a united front between the FA and the Premier League.

There has been too much division, too much sniping, for too long.

Co-operation and entente between the two bodies is the way forward.

Blunt and stark as Dyke’s speech was, it may have been exactly what was required to jolt the process into life.


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