Thursday, February 08, 2007

This week in the Assembly

NHS reconfiguration. Avian Influenza. Police budgets. All very important issues on this week's Agenda. But the most significant issue (in terms of impact) was a debate on Welsh football. It might only have been to note a Report by the 'Culture' Committee on 'Football in Wales' but the opening speech by Committee Chair, Rosemary Butler was delivered in a quiet, reasoned tone, which I thought was the most powerful Committee Report presentation that I have heard in the Assembly. Its gist was a total condemnation of the Football Association of Wales.

How on earth did we get to this position. Football is Wales' leading game in terms of spectators and participants. The FAW have a hugely important role. I have always had a great interest in football. I played for a few local teams until my early 20s - but then discovered that my personal creed of 'justified retaliation' was not acceptable to referees. After being sent off two games in succession, I went to play rugby for Shrewsbury around the Midlands and the North of England (there being no teams in mid Wales at the time). My 'first' game is now rugby but I remain deeply interested in football as well.

The root of the problem seems to be that the FAW consider themselves to be beyond questioning. Well they are not, and they are going to find out that they are not. Football is important - but 'Government' is more important. When the FAW stuck two fingers up to the 'Culture' Committee, and said "We are not giving evidence" it was a big mistake. After May, The Assembly will have the power to 'require' the FAW to appear before a committee - and they will have no choice but turn up. And quite right too. Who do they think they are? Even their supporters (which include me) were outraged.

This is all so utterly stupid. What should happen is dialogue between the FAW, who run the game, The National Assembly, The Sports Council and the clubs. At the moment, all sorts of accusations are made (and not rebutted) - because there is no dialogue. Clubs tell me, openly, that they have no confidence in David Collins, Chief Executive of the FAW, because they think he only cares about greasing up to UEFA so that he can be promoted to become a member. I don't know what truth there is in this, but it should be tackled head on. It shouldn't be allowed to fester. The once I met David I found him easy to talk to. He needs to try talking to a few others as well - including Rosemary Butler. Otherwise, Welsh football will be a big loser.


Anonymous said...

Seems pretty illiberal to me that the assembly should require an organisation to turn up to be grilled by some of the dullest people in Wales. What is the punishment if an individual or organisation refuses the invitation?

Glyn Davies AM said...

Unjustifyably rude about the people that are chosen by the voters I think. We are a variable bunch - like most other groups of people. It is open to voters to kick the 'dullest' out!

As I understand it, if an organisation like the FAW refuse to appear after May, they will be subject to a legal summons, followed by criminal action.