The problem with English football is not the Premier League. Nor that its chairman, Sir David Richards, uses industrial language.

MPs may have been shocked when Lord Triesman, former chairman of the FA, told the House of Commons Select Committee on football how Richards goes about his business and the language he uses.

But that is not the real issue.

The problem lies with the FA and its historic failure to come to grips with the unique nature of English football.

To understand this, let us go over some well known truths.

England is not a sovereign state and its football team does not represent Great Britain.

This, of course, means that, when it comes to football, Britain does not exist like it does at the United Nations, where it has a veto at the Security Council.

Only five countries have this privilege and these five do not include Germany, Japan, Brazil or India.

But Britain cannot field a football team and, what is more, it would not want to.

So, while in all other countries, the nation state is represented by a sporting team which identifies with the nation and in turn is controlled by one governing body, that can never be the case with football in Britain.

In this sport, Britain believes in diversity, a sort of multi-nationalism or, if you like, multiculturalism.

That, by definition, means that, in this country, the governing bodies of football are weak and ineffectual.

Now all this did not matter when sport was a parochial cottage industry with little money and international sporting institutions were pretty powerless.

Now that sport is big business and international organisations are acquiring more centralised power, the lack of such a central authority in British football only exposes the game to the sort of problems that Triesman was bemoaning last week.

What modern sport needs is governing bodies with teeth that are proper regulators capable of imposing sanctions on members should they step out of line.

The English FA has never been that kind of body. Almost from its birth, it has run away from taking control. It first abdicated responsibility back in the closing years of the 19th century.

Then, petrified by the thought of paying players, it allowed the Football League to be created to run the domestic competition.

Twenty years ago the FA had an historic opportunity to repair this breach. That was when the top clubs, eager to get more money, wanted to set up their own league.

This desire from the Manchester Uniteds of this world to be free from the Rochdales of the nation should have been the spur for the FA to take charge.

It should have realised that late 20th century football was a world removed from the late 19th century variety and brought all of the game under one body.

That was when it should have become a proper regulator of the game.

As we know all too well, the FA missed that chance. Given the opportunity to score an open goal, it blazed the ball beyond Row Z.

It allowed the old First Division clubs to break away and form their own body, imposing no sort of control at all.

It kept a golden share in this new organisation and laid down that the word FA would be in the title of this new league. Hence the name the FA Premier League.

Also the FA insisted that the FA chairman and chief executive would attend Premier League meetings. The FA believed that it was in control.

In reality, the controls imposed were in the best traditions of paternalism that the FA specialises in.

But, as anybody could have predicted, they have proved worthless.

So much so that even the name FA no longer figures on the Premier League website.

Go to the site and you will be told it is the Barclays Premier League but there is no word about the father that spawned this child. No child has ever been allowed to deny its paternity in this way.

But then the dreadfully negligent father allowed this to happen.

The result has been a sporting body that is unique in world sport.

The Premier League is effectively a company of 20 clubs that can do what it wants.

Over the years, it has made use of its freedom to impose its will on football in this country.

It knows that it has the best domestic football product in the world – its only competitor is the Champions League and that is an international product.

And the Premier League makes sure that everyone follows the tunes it plays, after all it is the one that controls the money in the game.

So what can be done?

It is clear that we need one regulator with real power to run the national game. But we are not going to get that.

I would suggest that we free the Premier League from even the minimal FA control it is now under and get it to run all professional football.

But, in return, it should be made to modify the free for all nature of football with a dose of American-style sporting socialism.

I am not suggesting the draft system, or doing away with promotion and relegation.

But there are elements of the American system that can be imported to improve the governance of the game here.

We need to recognise that the FA has run its course.

It is time it was put out of its misery of pretending it runs the whole national game when it clearly does not.

However, given the way things move in this country and despite Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, saying that football is the worst governed sport, I can see few changes coming.

Certainly not the radical ones that the game is crying out for.


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