Greg Dyke has headed large organisations, albeit in the media, for almost 30 years and had bust-ups at the highest level, so he knew what he was doing when saying the unsayable about the Premier League. He was playing the boy in the crowd gathered to view the emperor's new clothes, speaking the glaring truth the rest has been cowed into ignoring.
The Premier League has for years simply refused to accept any responsibility for the England team's relatively poor state, despite its clubs giving so few of their own, trained, young England-qualified players any first-team breaks. The league's combative chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has held the line that, somehow, the dwindling number of England-qualified players in his clubs' first teams makes no difference to the England team.
More recently the Premier League introduced some new youth development systems called the elite player performance plan, so now it says its own clubs' previous coaching was not good enough. That is the only factor it will concede as a cause of selecting few English players. Scudamore, on whose watch England's major clubs have been sold to overseas business interests, will not admit the possibility Dyke dared to articulate, that: "If your top league is largely foreign owned with foreign managers, why should those in control care about developing the England team?"
This is bold talk, and however many disclaimers Dyke included about "not, repeat not" being critical of the Premier League, he was rolling his sleeves up for battle.
He was a little disingenuous himself in his declaration of interest about his own key role in the Premier League's very formation. He acknowledged that as a London Weekend Television executive hungry for the top division's TV rights, he gave the big clubs backing for their Premier League breakaway at a fateful dinner in 1990. Unfortunately in his speech , this time given over lunch, Dyke skated over fundamental truths about that, did not say he had been wrong, or confront the enormity of what he did.
He said that at the dinner, the representatives of the self-styled "big five", Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, "genuinely thought a strong Premier League, attracting the best players from around the world to play alongside our English players, would help create a stronger England team".
That might be Dyke's recollection now, but that idea did not appear in the FA's subsequent 1991 Blueprint, which sanctioned the First Division's breakaway from the Football League. Nor have his dining guests generally recalled it as one of their motivations. They persuaded the FA that the new Premier League would help the England team by reducing to 18 clubs and thereby alleviating fixture congestion. Whether that was a good idea or not, once they secured FA permission for the breakaway, they reneged on that commitment.
Dyke did not acknowledge in this speech that the clubs wanted to break away mainly because they did not want to share their money, which he was promising them from ITV, with the Football League's other three divisions. Dyke repeatedly claimed it is "unintended consequences," a generation of money-obsession later, that the clubs are foreign owned, signing overseas stars and giving England-qualified players just 32% of Premier League starts.
That felt like a refusal to face the logical consequences of what he, doing his best for the organisation he was heading at the time, helped to create. The English owners of United, Arsenal and Liverpool with whom he dined later made personal fortunes selling the clubs to American buyers attracted by the TV money. Dyke is a commercial man, so his "unintended consequences" version of football's commercialisation jarred.
He has, though, shown courage, and his FA commission idea is a shrewd effort to draw the Premier League into a constructive search for a solution. But without independence, it could descend into the usual dispiriting squabble, or produce timid compromises.
The reality is the Premier League clubs, despite winning their breakaway by claiming they wanted to improve the England team, had, and have, little interest in doing so. This was true when men like David Dein led their clubs into signing largely overseas players, and is more pronounced now with faraway, financially motivated club owners.
There are few practical answers; a quota is unlikely to survive European labour market rules. The change needed is of culture, a recognition that football is a game, a sport, not an "industry". The Premier League clubs are not private companies whose priorities lie only with themselves and money-making opportunities; they are part of a broader national, European and world framework of football. What is desperately needed is a sense they are part of the collective, from which they violently departed when they broke away for the money – with the eager collaboration of Greg Dyke.