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The FA England Awards: Does England Actually Have Anything to Celebrate?

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  In this handout image provided by The FA, Steven Gerrard poses with the Senior Men's Player of the Year award during the FA England Awards 2013 at St. George's Park on February 3, 2013 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.  (Photo by The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

In its 150 years of overseeing the beautiful game in England, the Football Association has much to be proud of.

It is the oldest football governing body in the world, having compiled and codified the original rules of the game in 1863. In 1872, it created the FA Cup, the world's oldest and most treasured domestic cup competition. More recently, in 1992, it oversaw the inauguration of the Premier League, an ingenious rebranding of the top tier of English football that has made it the most watched league in the world—and one of the most lucrative.

As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, it staged the FA England Awards at St George's Gate on Sunday night. It was an ideal opportunity to pat itself on the back for a century-and-a-half of good work while recognising the achievements of English football and the national team.

Steven Gerrard was awarded the coveted Men's Player of the Year Award, earning 40 percent of the public vote on TheFA.com.

Journalists from The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Mirror were also recognised for their coverage of the England team.

In many respects, the FA does a fantastic job; it oversees 115,000 teams across the nation, it helps the grassroots game grow and runs 24 England teams across the men's, women's, youth and disability game.

However, I'd like to play devil's advocate and ask a question: Does England actually have anything to celebrate?

The England team may be ranked sixth by the baffling FIFA coefficient, but it is by no means in a state of good health. The Three Lions have failed to get past the quarterfinal stage of a major tournament since Euro '96, held at the home of football itself.

Roy Hodgson's England side whimpered out of Euro 2012 at the quarterfinal stage, having won ugly and shown defensive frailties throughout.

Hodgson's win percentage of .583 was bettered by predecessors Fabio Capello, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Glenn Hoddle. It is not as good as Germany's last two managers or Spain's previous five coaches.

Of course, they have arguably had better players to pick from over the years, but could this be due to a better approach to youth football and nurturing homegrown talent?

If Germany and Spain aren't holding self-congratulatory ceremonies, is it a little embarrassing that the English are?

After all, the English game may currently have more to be embarrassed about than proud of.

John Terry—owner of 78 England caps and a regular captain—stepped down from his role in the national team less than five months ago after becoming embroiled in a racism row that tarnished the reputation of the professional game in England.

Unfortunately, the John Terry situation was not the only scandal of that nature to blight the English game in recent months.

For all of its merits, the English game has become a hotbed of controversy in recent years. Even Michael Owen—an England star with a reputation as a wholesome individual—was a guest of honour at Sunday night's FA gala while being investigated for throwing a punch on the field!

Equally, rewarding the nation's top tabloid journalists at an FA event seems like a conflict of interest.

Yes, they do a excellent job of covering the England team and the domestic game—and I have no intention of attacking the 
livelihoods of fellow journalists—but they often (quite rightly) print incendiary pieces that undermine the decisions that the FA has made.

The English media are so often castigated for putting too much pressure and expectation on the national team, so why reward them on the same evening that you are rewarding the players and organisation that they professionally scrutinise? It feels like the equivalent of inviting your school bully over for dinner and giving him a medal. 

The Football Association has reached an important milestone, and it deserves to be recognised for its long-standing achievements. And the blushes of the senior national team should not detract from those at lower levels of the game who were recognised.

A glitzy gala that draws attention to the England team in the current climate, however, feels a little too ignominious.

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