The successes and failures of Martin Glenn’s FA reign

Martin Glenn has announced he will be stepping down as chief executive of the Football Association at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Here, Football Paradise assesses his time in charge of the governing body – a spell that has seen more hits than misses since he joined the FA in May 2015.

Shareholder value

FA Cup
Prize money has doubled in the FA Cup since Glenn took office (Nick Potts/PA)

For many chief executives, this is where the assessment would start and finish. He cut costs, tidied up the payroll and increased the FA’s income by 40 per cent, which meant he could invest more in the national teams, double prize money for the men’s and women’s FA Cups and return millions to his shareholders: you, me and everyone else who plays or watches football for fun.

Nasty in Nice

Martin Glenn
England manager Roy Hodgson (left) and Glenn face the press after the Three Lions were knocked out of Euro 2016 to Iceland (Owen Humphreys/PA)

A good set of accounts might have been enough for Glenn in his previous job at United Biscuits but an FA boss will be judged by what happens on the pitch. Glenn’s first test came at Euro 2016 and he, like the team, fluffed it. OK, losing to Iceland was not his fault but he can be blamed for the calamitous press conference afterwards. Sat beside a humiliated Roy Hodgson, Glenn said he would be one of three men choosing the new manager but admitted “I’m not a football expert”. His pick was Sam Allardyce but he only lasted one game before a newspaper sting forced him out.

A home fit for heroes

Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate was appointed England manager on a permanent basis in November 2016 (Adam Davy/PA)

Not an expert, then, but not completely clueless either. He quickly realised that the National Football Centre at St George’s Park would be crucial to England’s future. Following Allardyce’s brief stint in the hotseat, Glenn decided to back Burton by appointing from within, giving the top job to former Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate.

Problems in parliament

Mark Sampson
Mark Sampson was sacked as England Women’s manager last year Nick Potts/PA)

Now is not the time to rehash the details of Eni Aluko’s complaints against former England Women’s manager Mark Sampson, and Glenn cannot be blamed for every player/coach dispute on every team. But Glenn must take responsibility for how the FA responded to Aluko’s claims of bias and racism, and his own rabbit-in-the-lights performance before a parliamentary inquiry. The fact Glenn eventually sacked Sampson for a safeguarding matter that he had not properly investigated for nearly two years was just the final chapter in a sorry saga.

These girls can

One of the sad things about the Aluko story was it overshadowed the good work that the FA was doing to grow women’s football. The FA is now well on the road to achieving its target of doubling female participation by 2020, making it the most popular team sport for women. The Women’s Super League is growing, England has just won the right to host the Women’s Euro 2021 and more than a third of the FA’s workforce is female.

Foot-in-mouth moments

Martin Glenn
Martin Glenn sometimes got himself into a muddle when faced with a microphone (Adam Davy/PA)

As the “I’m no football expert” quote suggests, Glenn sometimes got himself into a muddle when faced with a microphone. Perhaps the worst example came earlier this year when he equated the Star of David with the Nazi swastika in an answer about the type of “political symbols” we would not want to see on a football shirt. Glenn apologised immediately but he was never quite as open with the media again.

From breaks to Brexit

It remains to be seen how clubs will be affected by Brexit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

While he may have occasionally miscommunicated in public, he was effective in private. Unlike some of his predecessors, Glenn got on well with the professional game. This enabled him to do something many had written off as impossible: the creation of a mid-winter break. That said, he is leaving just as the FA and the Premier League have their first serious tiff for years on what Brexit will mean for the clubs’ ability to shop abroad. The FA, on the other hand, sees the end of freedom of movement as a way to stopping the decline of English-qualified players in the top flight.

Wembley woe

Wembley Stadium
American billionaire Shahid Khan withdraw his big-money offer to buy Wembley Stadium (Mike Egerton/PA).

Some bosses are remembered for steady growth, others are known for a blockbuster deal. For Glenn, the latter could have been the sale of Wembley to American billionaire Shahid Khan. The idea was to take Khan’s cash and use it to transform facilities across England over the next 20 years, while renting the stadium. It was perhaps too bold for a game as conservative as football and Khan withdrew his offer before it went to a vote, leaving Glenn a tad diminished and probably very annoyed.

But what about the football?

Having pointed out that FA bosses must also always remember the on-field product, it is only fair to finish with football. Glenn has never kicked a ball for England, laid out a cone or washed a kit, but he has sat at the top of an organisation that is measured, in public, by results and on that measure he has been either very good or very lucky or both. Semi-final appearances for the men’s and women’s teams, remarkable success at age-group level, and a Nations League semi-final to look forward to. Glenn is leaving a year before England hope to win Euro 2020 with the semi-finals and final at Wembley. That they deserve to be mentioned among the favourites, perhaps even the favourite, is a testament to him doing his bit right.

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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