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Roker Ramble: Vegan football, secret notes, doom & gloom, and the small fry making a big noise

Whilst smaller clubs have been making positive strides in ensuring football is a better sport for future generations, the big boys - namely the FA and FIFA - are still stuck in the past.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Firstly, congratulations to Huddersfield for making it into the Premier League – a testament to what a good manager and team spirit can achieve.

Let’s hope the powers-that-be at Sunderland have been paying attention.

Huddersfield’s biggest ever transfer was in the region of £1.2m and now they’re staring at a windfall of at least £170m for one season in the Premier League. That’s some step up.

Back in 2009 the Terriers chairman, Dean Hoyle, promised season ticket holders who renewed every year that they could have a season ticket for £100 if they were ever promoted. Good to his word, those who stood by the Club will get Premier League games for £5.26 per match next season. Nice story.

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Last week was finals week and I tuned into the Europa League Final with a modicum of curiosity to see if Jose would spontaneously combust if they lost. In the end I got bored and switched off at 1-0, but not before clocking the Ajax management team. They appeared to be in formal dress – wing collars, waistcoats, matching ties and smart suits as if they were going to a ceremonial event rather than a football match.

I don’t watch Ajax play that often so they may look like that every week, but it just totally looked out of place. Ok, it was the final, but it’s still a sport - you can’t sit on the touchline looking like you’re at the Lord Mayor’s Dinner.

Compare that with the League’s newest member, Forest Green Rovers, where ties and suits are banned. Their Chairman – Dale Vince, a former New Age Traveller, was fed up of being stopped from going into opposing team’s boardrooms because he wore a t-shirt and jeans so he told the rest of the league the opposite would happen when they visited his club.

And that’s not all there is to Forest Green – the Gloucester town of Nailsworth where Rovers are based has just become the smallest settlement ever to host a Football League club. And the club are not just green by name – they’re the only vegan club in the league. No animal products are available in the ground, solar panels cover the stands, the rainwater is recycled to water the organic chemical-free pitch which is cut by the League’s only robot lawn mower which takes power from the solar panels and directions from a GPS system.

They’re in the process of building a new ground, entirely from wood, which will be even more environmentally friendly than their old place, and when it comes to player recruitment, they use the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy of statistical analysis to decide which players to recruit. All of which makes them one to watch in my book, and I shall pay them a visit next season and will report back on the pies.

A South Burlington, Vermont Field Of 366 Solar Tracking Units
So Forest Green can’t play at night then?

The other final last week was of course the FA Cup, and whilst I didn’t really care who won, I prefer Conte to Wenger, so may have leaned more towards the blue half of the pitch. Therefore it was a bit of a shame when Moses was sent off for diving in the second half. It was a stupid thing to do; referees are on the lookout for ‘simulation’ and generally speaking are pretty good at spotting it.

But not perfect – hence the good news that the FA are to introduce retrospective bans for diving next season. So, if a player dives and it’s not spotted by the officials, a panel can suspend the player for two games based on TV footage after the game. Now surely no-one can argue with this not being a good thing? Well, Little Neville isn’t happy:

I don't like this new rule ban for diving-going to run out of players to ban soon.

Which I think is a tad petty to say the least and makes me think that Little Neville likes to court controversy in order to get himself noticed. Personally I think it’s a great idea, and along with the growing movement to have video referees introduced sooner rather than later, you may be lulled into thinking that the game is making great strides forward in the name of progress and advancement.

Alas, not in all areas. In the abuse scandal, 560 people have now come forward to say they were sexually abused, and despite the FA promising ‘transparency’, news has dried to a trickle. Every amateur and professional football club was contacted by the Inquiry in January and asked to provide information by the end of March. Those that missed the deadline were given an extension till the end of April, and as of now eight clubs are still refusing to cooperate.

The FA have the power to impose sanctions, but as yet have taken no action, not even naming those clubs involved despite facing what Greg Clarke, the FA Chairman, has described as ‘the worst crisis he can remember in the sport.’

Clarke doesn’t fair much better when he admitted last week that football has a serious issue engaging with gay players. He spent nine months looking at how other sports treat the LBGT community and came to the conclusion that there was something ‘not right’ about men’s football in this area, and that he envisaged it would be ‘a couple of decades’ before the environment would be right for gay players to safely come out.

All of this smacks of the problem being too big for the man, but it doesn’t have to be. I like Graeme Le Saux’s approach:

I’m sure the dressing room would be incredibly supportive if a team-mate chose to come out now. Society and football as a whole have changed massively since I played, as a BBC survey this week shows, 92% of fans would have no problem if one of their team’s players was gay. Progress has been made. But that still leaves 8% who say they would stop supporting their team if there was a gay player. If that 8% are so appalled at the thought of a gay player being on their team then we should ask them to step forward, own their views and we can just ban them. They’re not welcome in football.

Chelsea v Manchester City - FA Youth Cup Final: Second Leg
Odd fella.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

And if all that wasn’t depressing enough, FIFA, at their recent conference in Bahrain, saw fit to fire their own investigators who were looking at instances of possible corruption since Infantino took power after the fall of Blatter. It’s estimated that it’ll take two years before any new appointees can reach the stage the deposed investigators were currently at. Another case of 'meet the new boss – same as the old boss.'

When did it become the habit of a manager sending little notes onto the pitch? In the Chelsea-West Brom game Tony Pulis wrote a note for Darren Fletcher and got the substitute to take it onto the pitch – what’s all that about? Are they allowed to do that? And what happens to the piece of paper – does he have to eat it, keep it in his shorts? It’ll just get dropped on the pitch I bet; it wouldn’t happen at Forest Green Rovers though.

Did you know that players are fined a tenner by the FA every time they’re booked? They should refuse to pay it till the FA become a fit and proper organisation.

And finally it looks like Wenger is going to stay for another two years. Good. I haven’t finished with him yet.

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