The common view of the Dark Ages is that it was a grand fall from the heady days of the Roman Empire.
The reality is that the reason it is “Dark” for later historians is that precious few writings survive from this period. Whether due to neglect, war or a general lack of scholarship is up for debate. What does this have to do with US Soccer? We live in a country mired in its own dark age of back alley deals, byzantine rules and a general failure to try and educate the US Soccer public.
This is blatantly obvious when you look at FIFA. Many of the soccer establishment in the US like to call FIFA secretive and corrupt, but FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA publish amazing documentation of every aspect of Football as they see it. A quick click on FIFA’s document page provides links to hundreds if not thousands of documents covering every aspect of the game, from FIFA’s governance, to marketing, to development. These documents examine, in great detail, how the game is played, grown and sold world wide.
UEFA, comprised of most of the most powerful and strongest leagues in the world, publishes amazing documents covering the beautiful game in Europe. The member associations within UEFA do a great job of documenting what is happening within their jurisdictions (England, Germany, Spain). Rules for the various leagues are easily found and plain to anyone who is literate in the appropriate language.
There are also ancillary organizations publishing in depth reviews on the state of the game in Europe. The European Club Association’s research arm has published informative works on academies, 3rd party ownership, and transfers.
Everywhere in Europe an independent press pushes against the natural human tendency to keep things secret and asks questions of the powerful federations that govern this sport.
Here in the US? We have none of that.
Instead we are tossed weak fluff from Don Garber, Der Commissar, of MLS on the state of the game, promising us poor gullible souls that “There will come a time when there will be far more transparency than there is today.” (As quoted by Andrew Das, NYT). Why? Der Commissar states the league “needs flexibility” (same source). What a load of crap. Secrecy invites corruption and leads to irrelevance. A failure to make the inner workings of MLS open to the public, begins the comparisons to WWE where all the contests are rigged for viewing pleasure. There may be athleticism and strength, but without openness it just boils down to a circus act for the masses. In England this information is available for the Premier league, Championship, League one, etc. down to some tiny regional leagues.
Meanwhile Sunil Gulati, the nominal head of the US Soccer Federation is an invisible man. For years his salary was paid by Bob Kraft (owner of the New England Revolution and Patriots), a massive conflict of interest. Soccer in America is more than MLS. There are dozens if not hundreds of professional and semi-professional teams in the country and thousands of youth clubs generating billions of dollars in the business of soccer here. But our Federation barely documents what is happening. Try finding a link to any documents on the Fed’s website. Its not possible. There is no list of who is on the board, what their salaries are, what business do they do, what is the state of the game in the US, or anything else that is de rigueur for every other major soccer Federation.
It is time for soccer in America to grow up, to enter an age of Enlightenment and begin to act like an adult in the soccer world. Take off the dark cloaks and let the people see what is really going on. Demand that our Federation act like the independent entity it should be and start making decisions on what is best for all soccer here. Start documenting what is happening in US Soccer so that an open and honest debate can be made by all sides, on all issues affecting the game. Stop acting like Soviet Russia protecting state secrets so the enemies of the people can’t overturn the dictatorship.
Finally, since we started with Monty Python, a good philosophical debate on soccer: