Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Xenophobia and Racism--just another day at the office for the English FA

The English Premier League has been mulling over possibly limiting the number of foreigners it allows into its ranks. This article is typical of what is being written on the argument for the limit—sure, they write, foreigners may be fun to watch and they may put out a better product than English players would, but that will leave our national team in disarray.

First and foremost, if any cap were imposed, it would not only be xenophobic, it would be downright racist (not racist in the way we think of it, more “nationalist” than anything, but this really isn’t a term you hear being used in this way). How could they get away with this sort of cap? Well, to be perfectly honest, the Spanish Primera Liga limits the number of players that do not hold an EU passport that a team can have. This does not justify it—it just shows that the Primera Liga is also xenophobic and racist.

These are discriminatory hiring practices—it is illegal to base whether someone can get a job on what country they come from. That sort of thing would never happen today in one of America’s sports leagues. Think of the uproar that would happen if a Dominican pitcher was told that he could not pitch because he was Dominican, or if a basketball player from Argentina was told he could not play in the NBA because he was not from the United States. Silly? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Morally wrong? Yes.

The arguments that it would make the English team less powerful are also ridiculous. To ensure the national team doesn’t get too soft, they’re going to give them guaranteed spots on teams over foreigners who may be better?

The numbers are in—EPL league attendances are dropping every year. With tickets the most expensive that they have ever been, fans should be outraged that they could theoretically be paying to see a second-rate product that was second-rate only because of morally wrong hiring practices.

English players are also known to be transferred for amounts much greater than their actual worth. Englishman Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was for so long talked about as being the “next big thing”, has thus far proven to be a bust at Chelsea, while Spanish teenager Francesc Fabregas has quickly become one of the world’s best midfielders. Wright-Phillips transfer from Manchester City to Chelsea cost £21million while Cesc cost £500,000. The Carter article referenced earlier makes it seem like it is insane that Wright-Phillips is not playing because of the amount paid for him and that Chelsea’s coach (Jose Mourinho) is off of his rocker for not giving Wright-Phillips playing time. This just illustrates the fact that British players are overvalued simply because they are British (it also shows that Brits like Carter buy into the hype of English players).

In a free market society, the best man for the job should be hired. The English Football Association (FA) should come to terms with the fact that this probably isn’t going to be some lad from Brighton or Southend—it’s going to be a kid from France, the Ivory Coast, Argentina or Mali. If the fans wanted to watch strictly English football, they’d go watch the Sunday leagues in their communities. They pay the big bucks to see the best players at the biggest clubs, and if the English FA gets their way, the big English clubs would no longer have any of their best players—seeing as they are not even English. Let’s face it—England’s biggest clubs are among the biggest in the world, but if the FA’s plan to cap the number of foreign players comes into effect, that would change in a heartbeat.

I’d like to one day see my beloved Arsenal play, and hopefully I do so before the FA forces Arsenal to sell off Thierry Henry, Cesc, Gilberto, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, et. al, simply because they are not English.