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Decision time for the FA

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Gordon Farquhar | 18:36 UK time, Thursday, 2 July 2009

I'd be surprised if the collapse of the Setanta deal wasn't the main talking point at this weekend's gathering of the Football Association Council.

The Council will rightly be concerned about the FA's future revenue stream, although finding a way through the TV rights maze and coming out the other side without taking a serious financial whacking is a headache for the Executive Board rather than the ultimate decision-making body of the English game.

One decision the Council will have to make, however, could potentially cost the FA tens of millions of pounds.

It will be asked to sign off the FA's new doping regulations even though, at the time of writing, there's serious doubt as to whether they will be compliant with the new World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code as favoured by the organisation and its president John Fahey.

Wada president John Fahey

If they're not, UK Sport is expected to suspend the FA from the national drug-testing programme, which, in turn, will oblige the likes of Sport England to ask whether it can continue to fund a sport which isn't code compliant.

The public funding guidelines say it shouldn't.

The Sport England Whole Sport Plan for football is worth £25.6m to the FA over the next four years.

It is money that should go directly to grass-roots funding, which raises yet another dilemma.

At a time when the Government's focus is all on getting more people to play more sport, torpedoing grass-roots funding looks like a seriously retrograde step.

Perhaps the money could be diverted through another investment platform, like the Football Foundation, but that wouldn't be straightforward or, I understand, terribly desirable.

So the simple solution is to make sure the doping regulations are code compliant.

Everyone else seems to have managed it - rugby, golf, tennis - so what's football's problem? It's this: the testing pool.

UK Sport say it has the responsibility of deciding who goes into the elite pool of footballers obliged to give individual details of their whereabouts for an hour a day, 365 days a year.

That pool will be made up of a maximum of 30 players, which, as I understand it, UK Sport would want to include England squad players.

As previously discussed here, that means Wayne Rooney would have to say where he and Coleen are going to be on their summer holidays for an hour a day so the testers can come and find him.

Wayne Rooney

This idea appears to be anathema to football, despite the fact other sports have accepted it.

I hear rumblings about proportionality and detect concerns about legal action from individual players if they're obliged to do something their counterparts in other nations might not be asked to do.

Fifa's published roadmap to Wada, explaining how the world governing body intends to become 'code-compliant', says that the testing pool should be risk-focused, only consisting of those players returning from serious injury and those who've tested positive before.

Instead of filing individual whereabouts, everyone else would go into team-based whereabouts testing, which means, for example, that if the testers want to locate any Manchester United players, then they'll be told to turn up at the club's Carrington training headquarters every Tuesday morning from 10am.

Fifa says Wada has indicated this is OK. Wada privately find football's attitude arrogant but is playing a long game, insisting it will say nothing more until the new code has been in operation for 12 months and it has had chance to assess it.

At the same time, Wada is telling UK Sport to allow no exceptions and no concessions, that the FA has to meet the requirements of the code. Which explains why hurried final negotiations have been taking place.

The regulations put before the FA Council may yet be OK and withholding funding turn out to be a worst case scenario, but I know of a few who are holding their breath.


  • Comment number 1.

    This issue comes up time and again and football's arrogant stance never really looks like changing. As Gordon has said in the blog, it seems every other top-class athlete has managed to adopt the requirements for testing into their daily lives, yet footballers, with all their money and the priviledges that go with it, and the football authorities, seem to think they should be exempt from anything that intrudes upon the absolute minimum. It does rather look like they fear that more than a few players will be caught out, most likely fore recreational drug use than anything else.

    The team-based testing is not a particularly suitable alternative as a prominent case a few years back will testify. And of course, there is the opportunity for the club or player who, fearing a positive testing, will conspire to 'miss' the tests. I', sure this has happened in the recent past too.

  • Comment number 2.

    As is always the case, the most opposition to the drug tests, comes from the ones who have something to hide. If you have nothing to hide then what is the big deal. With the amounts of money that the players are being paid, what is the problem with weeing in a bottle? They are professional sportsmen, who have a responsibility to be (performance enchancing) drug free. The recreational drug issue is another argument for another day (and the clubs have to have a lot of say in this as well). I get drug and alcohol tested at my work and as I said above, it was the people with something to hide that were jumping up and down about it. I don't accept that it is an invasion of privacy. If you want to play professional football, then you have to sign up for the testing regime. Simple as that. It would be a copout from the FA if they stuff this up. Footballers are role models (whether they like it or not) and should lead by example

  • Comment number 3.

    Football, arrogant? Tell us something we didn't already know.

    My concern is this.
    What in gods name is Sport England doing giving any money whatsoever to the richest sport on earth?

    We have public swimming pools being closed all over the country, school sports is a joke and yet this organisation thinks that giving £25.6m to the FA over the next four years is a sensible idea.

    Am I missing something here?

  • Comment number 4.

    Totally agree with comment 2 why would there be such opposition if there is nothing to hide? Its not like it is a major inconvenience to say where you will be for 1 hour each day its not like theyre saying you must be at our testing centre for an hour each day just in case we want to test you!

    Every elite sport should be thoroughly tested. We complain about diving and other forms of cheating so why are we so reluctant to stamp it out?

    What is to stop players being tested after every game? (Apart from money of course).

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm sorry...but sport (increasingly like all other aspects of our lives!) does NOT need yet another level of bureaucracy imposing its ridiculous demands on its participants.

    What's wrong with the system football already has?

    I can't remember an avalanche of doping scandals in football...can you?

    Why do we need to spend yet more millions on unnecessary and intrusive regulations and power crazed regulatory bodies and their officious minions?

    Who will decide which players will be put in the testing pool? How will they decide this? What about the players rights? What about the obvious discrimination in their treatment compared to their fellow professionals not in the pool? Nationwide? Europe wide? World wide?

    Who is paying for this extra regulation? The taxpayer? The leagues and the FA?

    At a time when all grass roots sport, particularly in this country, is losing out due to lack of investment (even my public school recently had to sell some of its playing fields!), surely any extra money available would be more wisely (morally!) spent giving future generations a chance to compete and not on even more ways to squander millions on increased control mechanisms.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with 'Absitomen"
    Would we, as people, want our lives to be run this way? And to lose our jobs if we missed an appointment etc? Personally, I feel that a person should be allowed to be left alone; and that even means - say - that if someone wanted to smoke a joint in his leisure time, it shouldn't be a cause for losing their livelihood because "The World Doping Agency" (sic) says so.
    Who ARE WADA? A private consultancy who charge various Associations for their services, but now seem to assume draconian powers.
    Personal responsibility should be encouraged not extreme measures as being forced on us.
    Currently it seems that ANY drugs traced can cause a ban, not just -say- Steroid use.
    Big Brother-ism is to be avoided at all costs?

  • Comment number 7.

    Like Freddawlanen I was surprised to hear that Sport England contributr to the FA. Should it not be the other way round?

  • Comment number 8.

    The "If they complain about drug testing then they're taking drugs" argument is completely inadequate.If i was a professional footballer and the above proposed laws were going to be put in place, I would oppose it completely. This doesnt automatically mean I have a blood-stream filled with banned substances

    The proposed WADA testing is ridiculously over invasive. Its not just a case of "weeing in a bottle" as redintweed has said.

    Also to test 30 players seems fairly pointless, even if you have a completely clean pool of 30 players, how can this tell us anything about the other hundreds players in the league. Who decides which players make up the 30 in the testing pool?

    Also, to reply to the second comment. Why shouldnt sport england give money to the FA for grass-roots soccer? yes, its the most popular sport in our country, but surely this is all the more reason to fund it? just because Man City can offer John Terry 300 large a week doesnt mean your local kids team

  • Comment number 9.

    Why do the fa have to join the anti-doping agency? Its a cartel and its pointless for sports like football. Footlballers dont use performance enhancing drugs because they cant increase your performance significantly in skill based sports. If the odd player does take drugs, who cares? Taking drugs wouldn't make Heskey a better finisher or make Barry a decent passer of the ball. Football doesn't need the funding and doesn't want to be involved in the Olympics so they should tell WADA where to go.

  • Comment number 10.

    So Sport England hands over cash to the FA? Where does Sport England get their cash from? A quick glance at the link suggests the govt. which of course means the taxpayer. So an organisation that can negotiate multi-million pound TV, sponorship etc. deals is also propped up by "ordinary" people, sounds like the banks to me.
    The whole drug testing aspect sounds like a mess too, so many different "bodies" all with a different agenda. I share the opinion that "performance enhancing" drugs are not going to make anyone a better footballer but then again I don't see why if say Tiger Woods is prepared to comply with whatever 'rules' are in place then why shouldn't Wayne Rooney?

  • Comment number 11.

    "I share the opinion that "performance enhancing" drugs are not going to make anyone a better footballer..." Rabster (2:54pm)


    The performance enhancing drug won't necessarily act on skill levels but consider this scenario:

    Player A - Totally Clean

    Player B - Takes Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) of choice that boosts stamina and speeds recovery levels as it has allowed Player B to train and play at a much higher pace than Player A.....

    Now to the match: Player A, clearly tired after 85mins of hard football attempts to chase back & defend an attack from Player B but finds Player B passing him.....

    Player B, clearly much 'fresher' strolls into the box unapposed and slides the ball home un-impaired by any sort of fatigue......

    Final Score 1 - 0 to Player 'B's side (or draw perhaps).

    Either way it is clear that drugs designed to boost stamina and fitness build clear advantages in terms of results. As I'm willing to bet, most of the posters on here have felt shattered during their sport and have maybe mis-timed or mis-judged part of their game due to fatigue.

    Imagine if the person you were up against (even in team sports) had the advantage provided by PED's of not feeling quite so tired.....

  • Comment number 12.

    If i was earning £50-100,000 a week they could test me at any time of the day or night! Players today should realise that one hour a day from their "HECTIC" lifestyle is not an inconvenience. Yet again premiership players seem to think that they are immune from rules that other sports have adhered to.

  • Comment number 13.

    why is it that 'professional footballer' has become synonymous with 'ridiculously wealthy'? This is not legislation reserved for the elite, this is for everyone in the football league. Lower League players are equally likely to be in the pool of 30 players and would earn a lot less than some lucky people reading this blog.

    I think the WADA approved proposal is way to intrusive. Isnt football such a widely appreciated sport due to its ability to entertain? is such a strenuous and expensive system needed to preserve this?

  • Comment number 14.

    I do accept that point and did consider it as a possible way in which something like EPO (The drug favoured by road cyclists to increase stamina) could provide an unfair advantage. Yet no-one is going to buy Usain Bolt simply because of his speed or a marathon runner for their stamina, you still have to use the ball effectively at some point. However I deplore drugs in sport and will concede your point. As I said, if other massive sporting names are prepared to comply, I don't see why footballers feel they should be exempt.

  • Comment number 15.

    An hour a day every single day of the year, however, is.

    Would you like to have to notify someone where you'd be for at least 1 hour a day 365 days a year? Off on holiday? BEtter give the name of the hotel and a time you'll definitely be there. Off to see the inlaws? Better have some well times stops. End up delayed an hour, and thus not where you said you'd be? Missed test. 1 Year ban.

    That's why the current system of showing up at a club, asking for XY and Z and testing them there and then is better.

  • Comment number 16.

    A few points for discussion/comment;

    There can be only one reason for any reluctance to take part in any systematic drug testing scheme and that is guilt: the fear of being caught.

    The case of Rio Ferdinand, who was treated with extreme leniency, a few seasons back, shows clearly that football's house is not as clean as it would wish or should be.

    Perhaps the problem may be more the use of recreational rather than performance-enhancing drugs.

    Performance-enhancing drugs if used by footballers would not, as pointed out above, improve skill levels but they would have an effect on stamina, strength, speed, mental approach, confidence...they would add to a player's ability to perform in a match situation.

    Drug testing would not be possible becuase of the hectic lifestyles of modern players??!! Three-four hours training per day...I don't think so!!!! Test them at the training ground if necessary...if they respond to the calls that is!!!!

    Money in football now: prize money, sponsorships, advertising, merchandising, tv revenues....££££ billions. Are we all naiive enough to presume that with all this increased revenue there isn't pressure on managers, coaches, perhaps bend the rules in order to improve their performance? Does anybody think it hasn't happened? Finiding evidence is the key, evidence that can only be gathered through a systematic testing scheme.

    Who pays for the test? Easy....the premier league!!!!!!

  • Comment number 17.


    Congratulations on your piece which was clearly designed to ruffle feathers on both sides of the debate. It worked!

    While I would accept the argument that WADA are playing one body off against another that should not provide the excuse that football is somehow different. Just because football has run its own testing policy for a number of years doesn't absolve it from criticism. The current system has not by any stretch of the imagination delivered a no notice, out of competition system that every other sport has signed up to. Neither has it adopted the sort of regulatory penalties that our Olympians face. If they had, Rio Ferdinand would have played his last game for England some years ago.

    At least some of those who have posted their thoughts here understand the main gain from performance enhancement drugs. Nothing you could take would make you a better footballer but they would certainly help speed recovery from injury and provide the physical edge in a closely fought game.

    Sorry football, it's tiime to fall into line and embrace the view that cheating is cheating whether it be the 'Hand of God' or out of a bottle.

  • Comment number 18.

    "There can be only one reason for any reluctance to take part in any systematic drug testing scheme and that is guilt: the fear of being caught."

    completely and utterly untrue. There are endless reasons that dont necessitate guilt.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have to say that the people in here saying that objections to testing methods are equal to guilt are just unbelievably naive. I think all sports people need to be tested for PED but that wada's system is just ridiculous! That other sports have accepted it to me is an irrelevant point, they should have said no equally as much as football.

    Just because you give them details of where you will be all the time does this mean you will be clean? Most athletes who fail drugs test usually do so at the olympics themselves (tests either before or after). Alain baxter's medal withdrawl is a perfect example of a system that is just completely ridiculous. It just means chemists will be smarter about how they administer these tests, i mean surely testing them after a game would be a more practical system. Even two tests in a week for a larger pool would be a better idea in any sport bar athletics obviously.

    #2 how often is it that you are tested? The peopel with something to hide were the only ones who objected, now what was this based upon? What is it you actually do? I personally would object to such rules as what you do with your private time is your sodding business! I am not saying come in blind drunk to your workplace, but you have a right to enjoy a pint or two surely and if you get carried away on a night out you should lose your job? They are pampered and do make a meal out of things (rio ferdinands case is a prime example) but i think giving out notice of where you will be every single day is pointless.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    Just the point Gerrardswhiskers. Cheating is cheating which is another reason for adopting the technology you suggest.

  • Comment number 22.

    #2, do your employers turn up at the side of the pool while you're on your family holiday and insist that you immediately leave them and come and provide a sample or they'll have you fired? That's what the new WADA rules are allowing to become a possibility.

  • Comment number 23.

    Post number 5 asks the question, 'I can't remember an avalanche of doping scandals in football...can you?' well other than the scandal, in Italy a few yrs ago that implicated Jaap Stam and several other high profile players, no there hasn't been a major scandal in recent memory.

    But the main reason for this is the almost complete lack of testing currently being conducted on top level players. I recall Rio Ferdinand complaining a couple of years ago that he once got tested 4 times in a season. To put this in perspective against other sports the British cyclist Mark Cavendish currently competing in the TdF got tested 64 times in 2008!! Plus the doping authorities in cycling hold onto samples and test them again when new techniques are developed just to be sure (this is evidenced by the fact that a cyclist has recently been banned after banned substances, previously undetectable, were found in a sample he had given 18 months ago that was retested).

    This shows jut how little the footballing authorities are doing to combat anti-doping when compared to other sports. Yes I know it took a major scandal in Cycling to prompt such heavy testing but at least they are doing something about it. Which is evidenced by cheats being caught and could also be used as an argument that cycling is actually now one of the cleasnest sports around because of its stringent doping tests.

    Asking players to be at a certain place at a certain time for just one hour a week isn't really much to ask is it?

  • Comment number 24.

    The fact of the matter is this, The game should be clean. The clean players deserve a level playing field. I am not saying that the game is rife with drugs, but if your team lost in the last rew minutes to a team with a player on PED's (who scored the winning goal due to better endurance levels derived from drugs) how would you feel?
    WADA may not be the be the be all and end all, but they are what we have. It is all political in the drug testing world, and for better or worse, we are stuck with WADA. With the big money on offer to be a better player, the temptation is there. It seems that too many people are happy to put their head in the sand and think that no one would use drugs in the EPL. Wake up and smell the roses. I do not have a better solution as I don't know the politics involved with the situation that is the reason for this blog, but I do know that if we do nothing, then the chemists will devolop newer and better (and undetectable) drugs in the future. Surely everyone remembers BALCO?
    To euanisakumbi (No 19)we are tested whenever the safety people see fit to test us. The fact on which I based my theroy (that the people who have something to hide are the ones who complain) upon was when it was first mooted only a couple of people complained. Everyone knew why they complained. I work in an industry that is very dangerous and no one wanted anybody on site who is under the influence. We get dulycompensated for the fact that we have to have our wits about us. People like you who object are simply told to move on. It is personal choice for anybody to work anywhere they like. If you don't want to follow the rules, then take a hike and go elsewhere. The same goes for professional footballers. If they don't want to prove that they are clean, try something else.

  • Comment number 25.

    The truth of the matter is that 'money and funding' in football has created a new paradigm where football is more of business than sport. The theory of 'pure sporting interest' is fast eroding. I have my reservations about the 'whereabouts rule', which I am currently writing on.


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