Sacked Managers, Booed Captain, Unsatisfied fans- What’s next for English football?

The summer performances on show by the England squad in the European Championships were some of the most disappointing on show since the turn of the last century. Despite the fact that the Three Lions squads over the years have only won six knock out matches in international performances since their sole triumph of 1966 the fans had high hopes going into the Euros.

The result was all too familiar. England’s Group Stage campaign started of with an infuriating draw against Russia due to a last minute goal. Despite the anger caused among the English fans, hopes remained reasonably high as the squad could take positives from the game. The next game was elating win after coming back and scoring in the last minute against Wales, making it all the sweeter. The optimism levels were high once again, however this soon came to an end with another irritating draw, this time a goalless one against Slovakia, meaning that our national team finished second to bitter rivals Wales in the group. Then the tense wait for the round of 16 draw. When drawn against Iceland it was seen as a given victory, only for the team to give the most under-whelming performance in living memory. There were no excuses that would satisfy a livid country of football lovers and there was no escape for the manager. The next morning Roy Hodgson resigned from the managerial role.

The month long media rumors began with pundits and fans trying to predict the next manager of the England team. After much debate the manager of England was announced as Sam Allardyce. Allardyce was an experienced manager by this point who had been managing in the highest tier of English football for over a decade. Despite not having trophies to his name “Big Sam”, as he is sometimes known, was and still is famous for playing a no non-sense style of football, helping him save many a club from relegation in the Premier League over his lengthy career as a top flight manager. Surely this was exactly what England needed after their abysmal European Championship campaign, a straight talking manager who would try and get England out of the rut they we are currently in. But once again things were not as simple as they seemed.

After Big Sam’s first game in charge, which avoided yet another infuriating draw with a last minute goal from Lallana, all seemed to be going to plan. However shortly after this a video was released to the press, depicting Big Sam talking about how to side-step FA rules and take short-cuts in the beautiful game. this resulted in a tirade of pressure from the media, public and the FA urging him to step-down, eventually resulting in his resignation. this led to Gareth Southgate, former England international, stepping in as caretaker manager until a permanent replacement is found.

Although Southgate won his first game in charge comfortably against Malta in England’s World Cup Qualifying campaign his career so far has not problem-free. The main area of concern is that England captain and most experienced player Wayne Rooney is in poor form and is being booed by his own fans. This hostility towards this loyal servant of the English cause has put pressure on Southgate and has resulted in Rooney being dropped to the bench for the next World Cup Qualifying round. Without a clear natural born leader in the side the England team have not played as a team in recent times.

So what is next for English football? With the next qualifier against Slovenia approaching it has the feel of a must-win-game for the new England manager if he i to silence the critics and restore the long lost confidence of the nation, the confidence so vital for the success of the England squad. And so looking into the future, it seems that the best way for England to approach the World Cup in 2018 is to qualify with confidence and play in the same way, but in terms of the tournament itself, should go into it with a level-headed , perhaps less optimistic mentality in order to alleviate some of the pressure that was so evidently present on that appalling night against Iceland.

Problems at the Paralympics

As much as equality is enforced, the Paralympics have, on too many occasions, fallen second best to the Olympics. Despite this unfortunate reality, the situation at Rio is worse than ever. The Brazilian government hoped to build on the success of London; however the event has only been able to go ahead with a government bailout. The Rio Olympics may have been riddled with problems, but the Paralympics have borne the brunt of Brazil’s mishandling.

Although they have been the most glaring fault this year, finances are only part of the problem. Empty stadiums, limited staff, and lack of transport resources, have meant that this year’s games have been underwhelming for Paralympian’s and spectators alike. With only 12% of tickets being sold by the time of the opening ceremony, the Brazilian government had to go back on their promise of only using private money to supply the $2.3bn needed to fund the event. Slow ticket and sponsorship sales, and the rising costs of staging the games led to the, already cash strapped government, having to provide over $100 million; in an attempt to allow the games to go ahead without cutting any sports or nations.

The Olympic committee aimed to sell 2 million of the 2.5 million tickets available. Yet a week before the games began, less than 290,000 were sold.  In a last ditch attempt to fill the stadiums $3 tickets were made available, but with prices that low, there was no guarantee that spectators would actually attend an event; or if they were using the tickets as a cheap way to see the Olympic park. In an attempt to fill the stadiums the Deodoro Park will only host 3 events, with all of the others being moved to the smaller, suburban Barra de Tijuca Park.

This inability to sell tickets, and therefore produce the funds needed, was made up for by drastic cuts from the Brazil government. These cuts took three main forms: firstly the size of the workforce, then the transport services for athletes and finally in the closure of numerous venues. Philip Craven, president of the international Paralympic committee added that: “These cuts are on top of the ones we, together with the International Olympic Committee, have already made in the last 12 months and are likely to impact nearly every stakeholder attending the Games.” He also said that the “athlete experience” could suffer due to these cuts.

The problem does not just lie with the games itself, however many fear that Paralympic sport in general will suffer badly. The British Paralympic Association says it is “worried” about the situation. In a statement it said “London 2012 proudly showed the world what was possible and we want Rio to be the next stage of that positive journey. The IPC’s announcement makes clear that there is major risk to that.”

Many fear that after the huge successes of Beijing and London, the Rio games could prove a major setback to the Paralympic movement.  Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who has won 11 Paralympic gold medals said “As much as London was amazing, we really hoped Rio would be another step up. They have successful teams, media sponsorship, but when they bid for the Games they were in a different financial and political position.”

The multitude of problems afflicting this year’s Paralympics and Olympics alike demonstrate that the selection process for the host nation should have more oversight. Making sure that a country is financially prepared for the games, and ensuring that host countries’ issues do not spill over and compromise the athletes’ performance, is vital. One can only hope that the IOC learn from the events of this year, and help return the Olympic Games to what it is capable of being.

Doping in Sport- is it really an issue?

The use of performance-enhancing drugs, or doping as it is more commonly known, is becoming more widespread and more effective in the modern world in all areas of sport as technology develops. Currently possibly the sport most affected by doping is athletics. During the past few days the situation has worsened significantly as Russian athletes have been put on a provisional ban from the sport following an increase in doping tests and doping awareness as a whole within the sport. This increase in the efforts to try and prevent doping has arguably been caused by the appointment of Lord Coe as the President of the IAAF who has made his dislike of doping in athletics by going to the extent of saying that his beloved sport may not have a future if doping cannot be eliminated.

Continue reading “Doping in Sport- is it really an issue?”

Nature vs. Nurture

Matthew Syed achieved a first class degree from Oxford University and was an international table tennis player, becoming Commonwealth champion on three separate occasions and representing Team GB at the Sydney Olympic Games. He went on to become a successful journalist for The Times; he was the Sports journalist of the year in 2009. His highly acclaimed book Bounce was published in 2010. It is fair to say that Matthew Syed is a talented man – or is he? Continue reading “Nature vs. Nurture”