Recently, former Premier League manager Ian Holloway made some bizarre comments on Sky Sports show The Debate regarding Brexit:
"I hope we get out, Brexit, because that's what we all voted for. And sort that out because you cannot have someone telling us how to do our own game. FIFA and UEFA have brought these rules in, they told us we've got to use VAR that I’ve got no problem with, but that handball rule that they’ve made up, I don’t want to listen to them. That’s nonsensical,"
He later went onto say, "Brexit is nothing to do with the football rules, is it? I’m not that stupid, so I suggest people wash their ears out and listen. As an English person, I’m sick and fed up of being told what we’ve got to do. Our country is fantastic. If you let us make our own rules up, do what we want to do, we’ll be in control of it a lot better. I don’t like UEFA and I don’t like FIFA telling us what we should do in our English football game. We should take control of our own game, then that wouldn’t have happened. Let’s get out and stop the EU dictating to us what we can do. I feel exactly the same with UEFA and FIFA over our football."
Let's take a closer look at how inaccurate these comments are.
The body with responsibility for developing and preserving the rules of the game are the International Football Association Board (IFAB), founded by the four British football associations. These originally consisted of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. However, following the formaiton of the Irish Free State in 1921, IFAB became the football associations' of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each of these has one vote on the IFBA Board today. FIFA is now also a member and holds 4 votes, or 50% of the voting power. However, the rule changes that Holloway is opposed to needed 6 votes to pass, so at least 2 UK members were required to tell 'England what to do with their football game'.
So instead of what Holloway is suggesting that "...you cannot have someone telling us how to do our own game. FIFA and UEFA have brought these rules in", they have not.
He continues "If you let us make our own rules up, do what we want to do, we’ll be in control of it a lot better". But that is pretty much what you have. There are 211 FIFA affiliated associations. Only 4 are members of IFAB. The same 4 countries that voted in the Brexit Referendum.
Finally, his comments "Let’s get out and stop the EU dictating to us what we can do. I feel exactly the same with UEFA and FIFA over our football", are inaccuarte becasue neither can dictate. In fact, IFAB could never pass another rule change again if just Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) decided to vote against every change. So 3 countries could block 208 others and FIFA. Where is the loss of control?
Holloway is not the only manager to comment on Brexit. Last year Cardiff City's Neil Warnock said:
"I don't know why politicians don't do what the country wanted, if I'm honest. They had a referendum and now we see different politicians and everyone else trying to put their foot in it. Why did we have a referendum in the first place? I can't wait to get out of it, if I'm honest. I think we'll be far better out of the thing - in every aspect, football-wise as well, absolutely. To hell with the rest of the world." The club were quick to point out that "These comments do not reflect the political position of Cardiff City Football Club, nor its board of directors."
While Warnock and Holloway appear to be stanuch Brexiters, Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp takes a very different view. Earlier this year the German said:
"What do you want? A not perfect situation alone or a not perfect situation as a strong partner in a very strong unit. That's only common sense. That's only common sense because history taught us that if you are alone you are weaker than the unit. I'm 51 years old so I have never experienced a war. We are really blessed in our generation, but the past showed us that as long as strong partners are together, Europe is a much safer place...Yes, we have problems but let's solve them...Just calm down and stick together and stop listening to people with no knowledge, from the right side because that's never the solution...I still hope that somebody will use common sense at the end and doesn't use the situation to try and improve only their own position".
While just 51, Klopp must surely have been only too aware of the devastating consequences of World War II and the partition of Germany. As the past 3 years have demonstrated, the UK appears to looks upon the years 1939 to 1945 as to how 'going it alone' in Europe is the key to success.
I also wonder to what extent the presence of non-British managers in top English clubs, for about the past 20 years, is influencing the views of the likes of Warnock and Holloway. This generation of British managers were the first ever not to be given the chance to manage many of the top English clubs. That must be the EU's fault too.