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Doug Reed: Futsal is a fantastic game - it will grow with or without the FA's involvement

A few weeks ago, England's and world's futsal community was shocked by the decision of The Football Association. As you probably know, one of the wealthiest football associations in the world cut fundings for futsal and grassroots football. The reason is, of course, the coronavirus pandemic. A mean of justification for all cuts in today's world.

This topic has been widely discussed in recent weeks. We wrote about it on Futsal Feed. All relevant futsal websites and Facebook groups which follow futsal globally have also addressed the problem.

Therefore, to further expand the story and give a futsal community deeper insight into it, we contacted one of the most influential futsal promotors in the world, also a player who wore the Futsal Three Lion's jersey 101 times – Douglas „Doug“ Reed.

Recently you wrote a comprehensive article on your popular blog related to the situation between England's futsal and The FA. Is there any new information about the situation?

Our campaign has had a small success in the fact the FA have now said they will fund the remainder of our UEFA Futsal Euro 2022 qualifying campaign if we win our playoff in Macedonia. However, as England players, we have had to assume a leadership position for the wider game in the country and we are trying to represent the interests of grassroots participants as well as the England team's longer-term future. We will keep fighting for everyone's interests to be represented. We are requesting a meeting with the FA CEO so we can present our concerns to him but he is not accepting“, told us Reed in the beginning and continued:

„The chief sportswriter in the country's most popular newspaper has written about what is happening with futsal. It is almost unbelievable that one of the most important journalists thinks our concerns are of interest, yet the CEO of the organisation that they relate to has no time to hear them“.

Is there any indication that the petition for the salvation of English futsal could bear fruit?

„Unfortunately, this reflects the status quo. In that sports administrators' decisions have major impacts on sports participants, yet their voice is ignored. It can not be right that those that practise the sport have such little influence on those that run these organisations.

> Sign the petition, SAVE FUTSAL - #FutsalForAll

Is there a way-out from this situation? Are there any chances that the FA changes its decision or at least, mitigate it and retain most of the funds which were invested in futsal?

„The decision was uninformed. We hope, after considering the appropriate information, the FA will realise the devastating impact this will have on people at the grassroots level and reconsider. This has been a rapidly growing game which provides opportunities to participate in sport for a broad range of people across our communities. We know how important sport is for people's physical and mental wellbeing. I am very fearful about the effect these decisions will have on people especially those that have often been neglected in sport but futsal engages such as women and girls“.

How is it possible that only two years after the FA started with the futsal-development program, the FA makes such a radical decision about our sport? We know that sport has been majorly affected by the corona pandemic, but we are talking about the wealthiest football association in the world…

"This has happened because the decision was uninformed. In the strategy, the FA promoted how futsal was becoming very popular, an important factor in growing female participation and key to improving football player's development. The views of the people with technical expertise who discussed these aspects, including England football manager Gareth Southgate, were not considered in this decision. It was made by those who do not have the knowledge to make such a decision and didn't consider the opinions of those that do. Further, the futsal budget is already very tiny and the FA's annual revenues are about 500 times larger".

Although in your blog-post you talk about the need for futsal to start separating from football (and we will get to that), when looking through England's football history, was it not always the case that the English were quite closed to football development considering the rest of the world? Later then most of the Western European countries they began to accept foreign football players and coaches as well as new tactical methods.

Isn't the situation similar when talking about futsal? While the rest of the world is opening to our sport and recognizes its potential, the English are closing?

"England was the inventor of football and less than a century ago one of the world's most powerful countries. This has naturally led to the complacency that remains today. South America and much of Europe have established futsal landscapes. Many countries in Asia and Northern Europe are now investing heavily in the sport to catch up with those but this decision will mean England will fall behind even further. Eventually, the mistake will be realised. But by then, the investment will need to be even bigger than now to try to rectify the situation and we may fall so far behind that we will never catch up".

At the end of the article, you are very optimistic about the future of futsal in England, despite the latest news. How other people involved in England's futsal community are looking on this matter?

"Many are still in shock from the decision and are very upset. At this emotional time, it is difficult to look beyond the short-term effects. There are those that are naturally questioning the role of the English FA within futsal".

What do you think how will this saga end?

"The future is always uncertain but what will remain unchanged is futsal is a fantastic game. For this reason, I believe it will grow with or without the FA's involvement. The FA banned women's football for 50 years and now I believe it is the fastest-growing sport in the country. I believe in the future the FA will deeply regret this misguided decision made by a few at the top in the organisation".

What is the future of the England national team? In November you are facing Macedonia in 2022 Uefa Euro Qualifications

"The England national team's future, at the moment, will end at the same time as our UEFA Futsal Euro 2022 campaign. The FA have taken away any support to prepare for these fixtures so the players are looking to pay for our own training. It has always been difficult as mainly amateur athletes with full-time jobs but this is pushing us past our limits and other areas of our lives are suffering.

"It will be extremely difficult for us but we are determined and proud to represent our country. The FA may hope doing this will mean we lose and, of course, it increases the chances of that occurring but we believe in ourselves and are motivated by all those we represent across the futsal community. If we win, this will be hugely important for the fight against these decisions.

You wrote a lot about the importance of distinguishing futsal from football. Can you give our readers the pros and the cons of futsal being under the auspices of football association?

"The pros are you have access, be it limited, to the funds generated in football. Also, football has very well established structures that we can be part of. The cons are that decisions are made with little consideration for what is in the best interests of futsal as we have seen with the English FA. I am not aware of any other sport that is governed by another sport. It is like tennis governing table tennis. It is a very unique situation".

Ok, lets, talk about the more positive topics. What would you say about the futsal development on the global level?

"I believe futsal continues to develop well globally. Although FIFA is not pushing much I see positive developments from the AFC and UEFA. Then, you have many individual countries driving forward and the game's popularity growing. Futsal is a very attractive game and it will grow regardless but with good management, it will explode.

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Can FIFA 21 World Cup in Lithuania (12th September - 3rd October) be a turning point in the global perception of our sport?

"I don't think one tournament has the power to do that but definitely, it can contribute to the sport's development. UEFA is delivering fantastic events and I think this is encouraging many national associations in Europe to invest in the sport. Those tournaments help demonstrate interest and potential".

What about Futsal at the Olympic Games? In 2018 Futsal was implemented in Summer Olympic Games for youth, and there are some indications that futsal could become an Olympic sport by the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. What is your view on this topic?

"I previously researched this topic for my blog several years ago and, despite entry into the youth games since, I don't think the fundamentals have changed. The IOC is trying to reduce the cost of The Olympics as cities are being more careful with the public funds they have and interest in hosting has been diminishing.

They limited the Summer Olympics to 10,500 athletes. If futsal was added that would mean one governing body FIFA would have nearly 10% of the athlete quota for just four medals. I can only see futsal entering if football was removed but football is one of the most lucrative sports at the games. Again, when the IOC is trying to improve the finances of the Games, I can't see them removing football".

What would you say what are the five nations which could explode in futsal in the coming years?

I would say France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia and, long-term, USA. I think you would need to spend time in these countries to really understand what is happening as people may have believed futsal was exploding in England but, whilst it has grown rapidly, we have had many issues".

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A few years ago, you were slightly involved in the foundation of US Professional futsal league. What is your opinion, will such a league start eventually?

"I worked alongside PFL for a short-period whilst carrying out some work for United Futsal. Based on only information that is public, I would say I am not optimistic about its future. But the game is growing in the US so there will be an opportunity for something in the future".

> Otto Orf: The futsal revolution in the US has already started

You were also involved in the organization of the Premier Futsal league in India. But after a few years, the league was discontinued. What is the situation with Indian futsal today?

"The first Premier Futsal League was very successful but many people involved in the organisation left after the first edition, myself included, and the second was not very successful. However, futsal has huge potential in India, a country where the passion for the sport is very high. Their national association will soon launch a new professional league and I look forward to observing its progress closely".

One week from now, the Final Four of UEFA Euro Champions League 2019/20 will start. What are your predictions about the tournament?

"The situation with the pandemic has made things more unpredictable than usual. The Spanish teams' preparations have been severely affected whereas the Russian teams have been able to play competitive games so I would go for one of them. Maybe KPRF. I look forward to enjoying the spectacular futsal that will be on show and trying to forget the worries of futsal's situation in my own country for a moment", told us Reed in the end.

Once more, we are inviting everyone who loves futsal to sign the petition and SAVE FUTSAL in England.