In its 61st year of rewarding great British sporting achievements the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is one of the most coveted awards for British sportsmen around the home nations. The award wishes to showcase the brilliant accomplishments that home-grown athletes from all genres of sport have managed to produce throughout the year. However out of 60 possible awards, the first place prize has been given to a football player 5 times; the lucky select few are Bobby Moore (1966), Paul Gascoigne (1990), Michael Owen (1998), David Beckham (2001) and Ryan Giggs (2009).
Now one might say that this is better than average; over the 60 years of the award, 15 different sports have won the first place prize and therefore making the average award per sport 4. However when one takes into account the magnitude of football in England the numbers do not seem to add up. Seeing sports such as Boxing and Formula One being awarded first place on more occasions than football is extremely surprising. Especially as, in a study made by FIFA in 2006 there are around 40,000 clubs registered with the English FA, which is 11,000 more than any other country. How is it possible that a country which has such a big support for the “beautiful game” is left behind when it comes to the nations top sporting award.
The best reason that I propose for this problem is the lack of English talent. Since the Premier League’s conception in 1991, top quality English players have become rarer. With the addition of large amounts of prize money for top spots in the League clubs have looked overseas to find the most talented players in the world in order to achieve those top positions. In the first round of games in the Premier League this seasons just 73 out of the 220 players playing were English. This is just a third and compared to the other top European Leagues (e.g. Spain which boasted 58% of home-grown players) is an astonishing small amount.
Dan Jones, partner at accountants Deloitte UK’s Sports Business Group said that “It’s a virtuous circle. You have the best TV deals, which gives clubs the ability to bring the best players here. Because the best players are here, more people watch on TV which means the TV deal goes up. The Premier League has been in that circle for at least the last 15 years if not 20.” The steady influx in foreign players in the Premier League has meant that first team places for rising English talent have been replaced with the newest £10 million signing.
The introduction of an English player quota has not helped at all, shown clearly by the likes of Manchester City who bought players such as Fabian Delph and Scott Sinclair to stick on the subs bench from time to time. It is clubs like this that have ruined English talent and have not allowed it to grow and therefore inspire and multiply. It has caused English players to become worse and in turn therefore not achieve as well as they should have; this leads to the decrease in football players winning achievement awards such as the Sports Personality o the Year (SPOTY) award.
This increase in foreign players runs parallel with the SPOTY award; with just 1 winner in the last 13 years (as well as Steven Gerrard who claimed third place in 2006) it is clear that the steps taken by rich Premier League clubs is affecting home-grown talent and in turn the winners of the SPOTY award.
However Robbie Savage takes a complete contrasting view on this subject and he said in an interview with the BBC that The easiest thing to say is that, if an English player or a British player doesn’t make it, his excuse is ‘well, they bought a foreign player’. It is a ready-made excuse.” Savage’s point brings up another argument for why football players have lacked the qualities to win the award.
English players in the most recent of years have just not been good enough; the national team has not lived up to its expectations in many of the last major tournaments. Being knocked out in the Group Stages in the 2014 Brazil World Cup was a disaster. English players as Savage argues are just not good enough. In turn this leads to Premier League clubs spending more on foreign players to plug the gaps that less able English players leave. With less English players lining up for teams every week there are less achievements.
Therefore I come to the same conclusion I did before; the lack of English players whether that be their own fault or their clubs means that they cannot achieve highly. This therefore leads to the lack of SPOTY award winners from the game of football. I think in years to come this will be a problem too difficult to solve however there does seem to be one solution and that is the women’s game.
Over the past few years women’s football has taken the home nations by storm shown so clearly by the massive support the English team received in the Women’s World Cup this year. The success of the team there (eventually achieving a bronze medal) led to Lucy Bronze, their top goal scorer at the tournament, being nominated for the 2015 SPOTY award. This is a huge achievement and the first of its kind. Although the number of successful English male football players seems to be declining maybe women’s football and their highly successful English female players can be Britain’s lasting salvation.
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