Parliamentary statement by the Minster for Sport:
Mr Speaker, I should like with your permission to address the House on the matter of the England football team. Last year, the identity of the team was somehow placed in the care of a junior FA official who was originally hired as an assistant but, it now transpires, found himself with responsibility far in excess of his ability.
It appears that this individual judged the team’s status to be secure while delivering a pre-match pep talk last night. However, he was neither qualified nor experienced to make this assessment and, in any case, whether this was accurate or not, the team’s identity was lost in the tunnel en route to the pitch.
Eleven players, who had been independently assessed as competent prior to the match, found themselves unable to muster more than the occasional moment of adequate team play. I can confirm that they had been sent through a process of unregistered coaching techniques, and their abilities were not delivered as they should have been. Additional concerns exist over selection criteria and the wasteful despatch of the squad into a needless friendly last week.
Mr Speaker, I will add some background for context. Similar losses have happened over the previous year. Last October, for instance, a match that had been certified as a comfortable win over Macedonia was misplaced somewhere in Manchester.
And while in transit to Croatia just days later, another match was quite negligently lost. FA investigators have still not been able to discover where these games, and the three points that were supposed to accompany each, went. It is feared that the points may have fallen into foreign hands.
Some millions of England fans had been securing their own identities against that of the national team, and I appreciate their very reasonable fears that that their identities may now be at risk as well. I wholeheartedly apologise for what I accept is the worst breach of footballing security since the Taylor incident in the early 1990s – which occurred, one might note, under a Conservative government. But I can assure the public that urgent steps are being taken to find out exactly what went wrong and to remedy the situation.
Clearly, the overpromoted official concerned was himself at fault, and we are launching a full inquiry to establish how the FA’s recruitment procedures – supposedly designed to weed out incompetence – failed so badly. We will be investigating the suggestion that he found himself in this position as a result of the ‘English jobs for English workers’ policy that was adopted after the departure of the previous incumbent (an EU economic migrant).
I would urge England fans that there is no need for them to withdraw their support, but as a short-term precautionary measure it may be wise to avoid conversations with grinning Croats, Russians and most especially Scots.
Looking ahead, I have been advised that there will be qualifying matches for the 2010 World Cup beginning next year, and it is hoped that these will provide a chance to regain England’s identity as a leading footballing nation. We must, of course, take immediate measures to ensure that we are fully able to seize this opportunity.
So, thanks to our special relationship with the Bush administration, I can announce that we’re sending Steve McClaren to Guantánamo Bay. Mr Speaker, I commend this post-match analysis to the House.
(Tomorrow I shall return to deliver a statement on how costly exposure to the sub-prime player market has led to the nation’s footballing prowess being systematically overvalued since the 1970s.)