England beat Albania 2-0 away from home. While the result was expected, the enthusiastic comment afterwards from Roy Keane, Ashley Cole and about the exceptional talent from the English youngsters was uplifting.
Gareth Southgate, they said has a problem, picking his first eleven from a squad with so much talent that just keeps on improving. It must be remembered that England under-20s won the World Cup.
It was not that long ago that Kevin Keegan said that English players could not get picked for Premier League games and the national side would suffer because of it. Buying top class foreign players was always an easy option for the top clubs. Now there is a realization that home grown talent through the club’s academies is the way forward, not only on cost, but English players are also more dedicated to their teams and likely to stay put.
Investing in youth is like investing in engineering apprenticeships. It takes a while to get a return on money invested, and for every Marcus Rashford there are many that do not make the cut.
Money from media rights has placed the Premier League in the top echelon of sport. Its following globally is phenomenal, it is the number one sports betting product. We must not let it catch the English disease, taking it for granted that it will always be this way, as we have done with so much of the UK’s industrial base.
COVID-19 has caused football clubs to lose a third of their income through the loss of money at the gate.
Looking at the accounts of most clubs even before the pandemic, very little cash was held at the bank.
There is little margin of error, and when the governments loan support and furlough money expire some will go into liquidation.
The sports betting industry invests £233m into football sponsorship every year, over £1.16 billion in five years. No business can afford to lose that investment based on an idea, not proof or fact, that there is a connection between youth gambling and shirt sponsorship.
Academics point to cigarette advertising. There is a difference – it was scientifically proven that the inhalation of tobacco smoke led to 48 known diseases. There is no such proof that a name on a shirt will cause addictive gambling.
This is absolutely the wrong time to upset the financial equilibrium of football clubs. If it happens, who will suffer most? Not the players who are on tight contracts. It will be the apprentices at the academies, the soft option to cut overheads and thus the future of English football.
By Warwick Bartlett