A tactless organisation

Delegates at the launch of the English Football Association's 150th anniversary year. From left: Roy Hodgson, Graham Taylor, Terry Venables, David Bernstein (Chairman of the FA), Fabio Capello and Sven-Gorgan Eriksson.-AP Delegates at the launch of the English Football Association's 150th anniversary year. From left: Roy Hodgson, Graham Taylor, Terry Venables, David Bernstein (Chairman of the FA), Fabio Capello and Sven-Gorgan Eriksson.

The sad fact is that ever since Sir Stanley Rous resigned as FA secretary in 1962 after 28 years in office, the FA has steadily lost direction, influence and moral authority. By Brian Glanville.

In grandiose fashion the Football Association had just celebrated its 150th anniversary. A giant banquet for the great and the good, not even excluding FIFA president Sepp Blatter, anything but a friend to English football. But there was whatever the banquet a bitter sweet taste to it all. The sad fact is that ever since Sir Stanley Rous resigned as FA secretary in 1962 after 28 years in office; the FA has steadily lost direction, influence and moral authority. Till today when prestige and authority are negligible.

You might say that the crucial moment, the moral surrender, came when in 1992, Graham Kelly, then Chief Executive — the office previously known as secretary — made common cause with the leading clubs of the First Division, backed by the money of Sky television, to form the so called FA Premier League, which I promptly christened the “Greed Is Good League”.

It meant that the top 20 clubs now broke away from the Football League at large to form its own lucrative competition; at the expense of all the other clubs in the three lower divisions; condemned to such difficult financial days in consequence.

The greatest irony being that the alliance as implemented by Graham Kelly who till he took over at the FA had been top-man at the Football League. The boy which, under the grim, xenophobic regime of the late Alan Hardaker, who detested Rous, had been at daggers drawn with the FA; and had even through Hardaker done its best or worst to keep English clubs out of the European Cup when it was launched in 1955.

But now in 1992 representatives of the Premiership would enter the highest realms of the Football Association whose historic remit had been to hold the ring in English football, to be concerned not only with the elite clubs but with every member club in England, right the way down to the humblest amateur teams.

Kelly would eventually and somewhat ironically leave his post at the FA in embarrassing circumstances when it transpired that he and the then FA chairman, a coroner from Southampton, had entered a surreptitious deal with the Welsh FA in return for their support in a European vote.

Ideally the successor to Rous should have been his protégé Walter Winterbottom, for 16 somewhat blemished years in charge of the England football team (though Rous in Rome in my own presence did in May 1955 offered his job to the then manager of Roma Jesse Carver). Winterbottom may have been an indifferent international manager but he was an excellent administrator as he would go on to prove at the Central Council for Physical Recreation.

But the devious, scheming Oxford scientist Professor Sir Harold Thompson, hating Rous who had always swotted him like a fly, browbeat the voting FA delegates to support Denis Follows, then FA treasurer and an ineffectual figure whom Thompson would eventually drive into a heart attack.

How well I still remember the evening when Follows was appointed and I sat with him in a BBC radio studio. “The Secretary,” he declared, “is meant to be the servant of the Association; and we all know what happened, the servant became the master.” And a good thing too, I thought.

Since follows, there has yet to be a decent chief executive, call him secretary or what you will. Ted Croker made all sorts of promises when appointed and at least he had been a professional footballer but they remained unfulfilled.

You might say that the nadir came during the overpaid reign as the England manager of Swede Sven Goran-Eriksson who kept the job even when it was established that he had secretly been talking with Chelsea about joining them. In due course it transpired that both he and the then chief executive of the Association, one Mark Palios, once a professional footballer with Tranmere Rovers, had both been having an affair with one of the FA secretaries.

Fearing exposure by the Sunday paper ‘News of the World’, Palios sent an assistant Colin Gibson to offer them full details of Erikssson’s liaison, provided his own name was kept out of the paper. His offer was refused and he duly had to resign though it seems that he received a substantial payoff.

The appointment of Adam Crozier now head man at Independent Television was surprising in as much as it was known that he had been found to have “massaged” his figures while working on advertising for the ‘Daily Mail’, who forgave him. Without authorisation, he moved the FA headquarters from Lancaster Gate in Bayswater where they had been for so long to hugely costly offices in central Soho Square; which proved so hard to sell when the FA, finding them far too small, decided to move out. In the meantime Crozier sacked many useful old retainers and appointed a platoon of generously paid young women with clipboards.

Brian Barwick, previously head of sport at Independent Television, made a dog’s dinner of persuading the Brazilian Big Phil Scholari to take over when Erikksson went, and then appointed the hapless Steve McClaren.

The late 1990s saw the FA pressed by the hope “unfulfilled” of getting the ensuing World Cup persuading Manchester United to forego the FA Cup which they held to take part in the so called Club World Cup. England did not get the World Cup as might have been anticipated. As it should have been more recently when Russia for all their football’s racism was awarded the 2018 World Cup though they had spent a fortune on a hopeless quest.

And why you may ask was Fabio Capello’s GBP26 million contract renewed after a dismal World Cup when it could have been cancelled and why was the John Terry racism case so badly botched?