England could end up playing fewer friendlies during the next four-year TV deal even though the Football Association remain committed to exposing the national team at the highest possible level.
Following the adverse reaction to last week’s home defeat to Spain at Old Trafford, Steve McClaren’s assistant Terry Venables claimed it was time to scrap friendlies in favour of short ‘get-togethers’ which would allow more time for training.
The chances of such a move are remote, given all England’s major rivals play on the FIFA-recognised dates and the FA need to maximise revenues in order to make the payments on the newly-constructed Wembley Stadium.
In fact, it had been suggested the number of friendlies could actually increase because the tender document issued for the TV contract due to run from 2008-2012 includes provision for 18 such matches.
However, the reason for the high figure is that the FA are now including away games as part of the packages on offer, something they have previously never done.
So, with England in line to play 20 friendly games from 2004 to the 2008 World Cup, there is scope for a minor reduction in the number of games the national side play.
Although the FA have opted not to state the obvious in terms of the Wembley repayments, they also suggest they are in the middle of a ‘damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t argument’. For, if England had not played last week and they lost the vital Euro 2008 qualifier in Israel on March 24, Soho Square officials feel certain McClaren would have been castigated for not getting his team some much-needed match practice.
In addition, TV viewing figures for the national side remain strong, with audiences peaking at above eight million for Wednesday’s largely drab encounter.
And, fans can hardly complain about the opposition England are facing either.
After tackling European Champions Greece, then Holland and Spain this season, a high-profile clash with either Brazil or Argentina is planned for the end of May, while Germany are the likely opponents on August 22.