Time to send for the Commisioner

In August this year it was revealed that former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay and his sidekick Iain Moody had sent racist, sexist and homophobic texts. The matter was referred to the FA for them to deal with. We are now in December. Mackay and Moody haven’t even been charged by the FA never mind punished. And if anybody else is as astonished as me by this state of affairs, the reason for it is simple. And it is a UK obsession that is holding us back. namely, the committee.
As yesterday’s Daily Telegraph said, an “expert working group” (another name for a committee) has been meeting to discuss the Mackay affair. Ah, so that’s why there has been no progress. Committees are in fact designed to slow down progress. One reason why Liverpool’s transfer dealings during the summer were a disaster (£16 million dud Mario Balotelli for example) must be that they are being decided by a six-man transfer committee. It is very hard to get six human beings to agree on anything – and this must be costing Liverpool dear in a market where speed can be of the essence. And when FA chairman Greg Dyke wanted to deal with English football’s international problems what did he do? He set up a commission (yet another name for a committee). Another way to waste time.
This of course is not unique to football. English cricket is addicted to committees. In the last 64 years it has had two Altham Committees (1950 and 1956), a Palmer Committee (1966), a Murray Committee (1992), two Acfield Committees (1996 and 2002) and a Schofield Committee (2006). All designed to make the public think something was being done whereas the real intention was to fudge the issue in the hope that by the time the committee had reported the press and public had lost interest in the problem. And as for rugby, well former England captain Will Carling once called the men who run that sport “57 old farts”…
At least politicians are more honest than sports administrators. Former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson loved Royal Commissions. In his two spells as Prime Minister (1964-70 and 1974-76) he set up ten of them. And why did he do that? This is straight from Mr Wilson’s mouth. They “take minutes and waste years”. So all he was doing, by his own admission, was fudging the big decisions. Just like the FA are doing today, just like the cricket establishment did in the past.
But is there an alternative to this committee quagmire? Yes there is. But you have to look across the Atlantic. All the big US sports have commissioners in charge – powerful men who don’t fudge big decisions, they make them. And they have the power to do just that.
Two racism cases sum up the difference between the two systems. The man who has given Mackay employment – Wigan owner Dave Whelan – made racist and anti-Semitic remarks to the Guardian last month. The FA have charged him – but for reasons that must remain a mystery have given him an extra week to respond to the charges (he now has to the 12th of this month). In contrast, in the US the owner of National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise the Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling was caught making racist remarks on video. That was on April 25th 2014. On April 29th 2014 NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, and banned him from the NBA for life. He was forced to sell the Clippers franchise. Four days. That is how long the NBA, with a Commissioner with the power to take decisive action, took to banish a racist scumbag from the NBA for ever. Sterling can consider himself unlucky. If he owned a football club, it would take ages for him to get punished – if he ever was.
It is now clear what needs to be done. The rule of football* by committees of fuddy-duddies must end. We have to copy the US system and appoint a Commissioner of Football to take charge of the whole professional game with power to take swift action when needed. That person could then banish the likes of Mackay, Moody and Whelan(and convicted rapist Ched Evans) from football for ever. And very quickly.
And as for who should be the Commissioner? When baseball invented the office in 1920 they insisted it should be someone outside the industry and appointed judge and baseball fan Keneshaw Mountain Landis. That is what I would do. No ex-players or managers need apply. Off the top of my head, I think five people could do this job (though I’m sure many more could). The five I have in mind are Karren Brady, Heather Rabbatts, Jean Williams, Carrie Dunn and Lord Ouseley (founder and chairperson of the anti-racism campaign Kick it Out).
Two of these people are black and four are female. As one of the main problems in football is racism and sexism, a black and/or female Commissioner would send a strong message and be my personal preference for the job.
We in the UK have imported a lot of things from the US. Some brilliant – the Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy for example. And some awful. like Black Friday. It is time to import another idea. it is time to send for the Commissioner.
*Although I’ve concentrated on football cricket, rugby – in fact any sport in the UK – could benefit from having a Commissioner.

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