The FA Premier League - an open letter

To: Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive, F.A. Premier League
      Ian Watmore, Chief Executive, Football Association


Dear Mr Scudamore and Mr Watmore,

You may be aware that an Arsenal player, Aaron Ramsey, was seriously injured on Saturday during a game against Stoke City.

While the investment from Sky has had a significant impact on the quality of players English clubs can now sign and the wages clubs now choose to spend, I am not alone in being concerned about the way the Premier League is being managed.

Forget farcical suggestions of a 39th game, played abroad to entice international crowds and throw the entire structure out of kilter.

The biggest problems in this country and to do with the pitches and questionable punishments meted out for serious foul play.

One of the qualities of the English game is that it is fast and furious, played at a frenetic pace with an end to end style where controlled passing and patience are the anathema of entertainment.

Arsenal have been the standard bearers of a different type of football, one which, while it has moments of pace, seeks to play the 'beautiful game' in the manner of the greatest sides of the past.

The fact that they do not spend millions on big name signings every season and try to promote from within is further testament to the benefit they are bringing the English game.

Even when a player does not make the grade at Arsenal, he is likely to go on to have a fine career elsewhere.

Perhaps it could be argued that Arsenal's style does not lend itself to success in the modern game, but certainly the Gunners remain many supporters' 'second team'.

The way manager Arsene Wenger has taught his teams to play is one of the big draws of Premier League football and one of the main reasons why international audiences set their clocks by live matches around the world.

But what sort of example does English football set when over-zealous play turns into a physical bombardment that pushes the rules over the edge?

When using size and physique gets transformed into "make sure he knows you're there...leave a few marks on him to remind him he's been in a game.'

Football is a contact sport and should remain so.

To remove tackling or the physical aspect of football, as UEFA President Michel Platini once suggested, would make a mockery of the game.

But there has to be a balance.

If teams are going to be overly aggressive and make tackles that are on the very edge of fair play, surely there must be sizeable punishments when those boundaries are crossed?

When a young player like Aaron Ramsey has his leg shattered by a crunching tackle that is positively encouraged by his coach, regardless of a lack of intent to harm, surely the offending player must suffer a strict punishment that reflects the damage he has caused.

As M. Wenger said, it is no coincidence that in the past five years, Arsenal have suffered three extremely serious injuries against players who then, sadly suffered no more than to serve a three or four match ban.

If the FA Premier League is to maintain its integrity, it must put in place safeguards that ensure all players know that dangerous, late or ultimately injury-inflicting tackles will bring with them suspensions and financial punishments that reflect the gravity of the challenge.

If these undertakings do not take place, teams and individual players will continue to play with an aggression and phyicality which goes beyond the boundaries of fair play.

Ultimately, this will put top players off signing for English clubs, knowing that they may lose a year of their career to another reckless and unlikely-to-be-punished serious foul.

It is up to you. The very integrity of the game is at stake if the beautiful game is to be replaced by the ugly truth.

Yours sincerely,

Avenell Dave