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Dyke defends World Cup draw ‘joke’ gesture

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By Andrew Tuft

Saturday 11 January 2014

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has dismissed the cut-throat gesture he made following England’s World Cup 2014 draw as a joke, claiming a media agenda attempting to make more out of the incident than was warranted.

Greg Dyke

England were put into Group D with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy, and Dyke explained on the Clare Balding Show on BT Sport 1 that he was simply acknowledging that Roy Hodgson faced a difficult set of fixtures - made more challenging by the location, in the North East of Brazil in Manaus.

“Certain journalists turned this into a great big issue. It was a joke,” Dyke argued. “We didn’t want to meet the floating European side and we didn’t want to go and play up in the jungle and we got both.

“I think it’s far better to go there and know it’s difficult group and if you get through you think you’ve achieved something,” he continued, “Than to go thinking it’s an easy group I can get through this, because it’s not an easy group.”

If the conditions England will face in Brazil have caused consternation then there has been downright controversy over the staging of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said this week that the tournament would be held in the winter and while FIFA insist no decision has been made, Dyke agrees that the competition will be moved from its usual June date.

“What was said [by Valcke] was rapidly withdrawn because that’s not been agreed by the rest of football,” Dyke said, adding: “It certainly won’t be in the summer.”

How Europe’s football leagues adjust their calendars to make way for the tournament is now up for debate, with Dyke confirming talks are on-going.

“That’s what’s being discussed, how long [of a break] do you need, does it have to be in that year, can it go into the next year, those discussions are going on.

“But [World Cup 2022] won’t be in the summer, and anybody who’s been to Qatar knows it couldn’t possibly be in the summer.”

The precise make-up of the England team for that tournament has also come into question as Dyke put together a panel to examine why England appear to struggle in international competition, focusing on the development of players in English football.

Dyke revealed he would like to see more English players competing abroad and believes it would benefit the national team. “There are very few English players playing elsewhere,” he said.

“Whereas there are an awful lot of Spaniards, Germans, playing in this country. You’re not interested in (the number of English players) playing in the Premier League, you’re interested in those playing in the top leagues,” Dyke added.

“The really telling figures are The Champions League figures,” he continued. “They are really disturbing, how few English players are playing in The Champions League.

“It’s a good team set up,” he said of the current England squad. “But if you’re choosing from a limited number, we haven’t got that depth that you need.

“We’re going to do as well as we can this year. But let’s look eight years forward, let’s look at the next generation of kids coming through, and can we help them on that pathway.”

Dyke’s commission is intended to help England produce more, better players, and not, Dyke insisted, examine the wider social issues in football, particularly after Thomas Hitzlsperger revealed that he was gay.

“The commission is more limited than that,” Dyke reiterated. “The commission is saying: “Look we’re down to something like 30% of the players in the Premier League now come from this country and the numbers going down. And if we’re not careful we’re not going to have an England side in 10/15years time unless we do something about it.”

“The aim of the commission is to say, about elite sport, how do we get more English players playing at the top level, and it doesn’t matter what race they are.”

Greg Dyke was speaking on The Clare Balding Show. To see the full interview tune in to BT Sport 1 at 9pm on Saturday 11th January

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