Peter Young
16 November 2003
England Football Online
Contact Us Page Last Updated 16 November 2003
These opinion pieces express only the views of the author of the particular piece.


Comment: Palios' Bureaucratic Bungling Must Stop

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The Palios-Led  Football Association is Unfit to Run the National Team

See also:

Football Shirked its Responsibility in the Bowyer/Woodgate Affair
The F.A. must make its own determinations when footballers are charged with crime

Rush to Judgment:  The Rio Ferdinand Affair
The Football Association’s Shoddy Conduct Shows It at Its Bumbling Worst 

The Aftermath of the Rio Ferdinand Affair
The Football Community’s Response is Not Promising  

The Rio Ferdinand Affair - Time to Move on?
Yes, but the Football Association and Mark Palios Must Take Some Lessons With Them

The Rio Ferdinand Affair:  An Exchange with a Reader


The latest fiasco in England team selection establishes beyond any doubt that the Mark Palios-led Football Association is unfit to run the national team.   We're not ready to give up on Palios, but his learning curve must be a steep one.

England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson made a late call to Leeds United forward Alan Smith for the Denmark friendly, only to see him sent packing a few hours later because criminal assault charges might be brought against him for tossing a plastic bottle back into the crowd.  That came in the wake of the Rio Ferdinand debacle, which saw the Manchester United defender, a starting regular for England, suspended from national team duty for the Turkey and Denmark matches for failing to take a drug test although he had not even been charged before the Turkey match and still has not received a hearing on the charge the F.A. eventually made before the Denmark match.

When Eriksson called on Southampton's James Beattie to replace the suspended Smith, Palios and his cohorts at the F.A. actually considered sending him home, too, because he was in the middle of serving a drink-driving ban.  They ultimately decided not to suspend Beattie on the nonsensical distinction that the courts already had dealt with his case.  Apparently, in Palios' topsy-turvy bureaucratic world, the uncharged and the unconvicted deserve harsher treatment than the charged and the convicted.

Palios might be very good at juggling numbers, but he is an abysmal failure in dealing with the large part of his job that has a human relations aspect to it.   He is a bureaucrat, and twice he has concocted a bureaucratic boondoggle in national team selection. 

In his short administration, despite the best of intentions, he has managed to alienate the entire England team and England's national team coach.

What he needs to do is to read Human Relations for Dummies' now.

It isn't all that hard.  All he needs to learn is that people operate on the basis of expectations.  Putting in a new, hardline code of conduct and disciplinary regime is all very well.  But you don't impose it in midstream, without any warning, and apply it retroactively.  What you do is spell things out in advance, tell people in clear terms what is expected of them and what will happen if they fail to live up to those expectations.  You give clear advance warning of what the rules are and what will happen if they are violated.  And along the way you give a bow to the requirements of fair procedure.   If you want to ensure good relations all round, you also consult constituent organisations, like the players' representatives in the Professional Footballers Association.  Those in positions of authority who ignore these simple principles are asking for trouble.

Twice now Palios has taken harsh action against England players without even a nod to basic principles of fairness, which include fair warning as well as some sort of hearing before discipline is imposed, and, in effect, established a new disciplinary regime without consulting anyone outside his inner circle.

Geoff Hurst, the England World Cup 1966 star, has said management should manage and players should play.   Well, Geoff, old boy, the days when the F.A. is free to do whatever it wants, however unfair, however incompetent, are over.  It isn't that simple, although we suppose empty mouthings will continue to come from empty heads.

FIFA head Sepp Blatter has bemoaned the lack of respect for the F.A.  Blatter has yet to learn that organisations gain precisely the respect they deserve.  And the lack of respect for the F.A. (as well as FIFA) is richly deserved.