Goodbye Triesman

Lord Triesman has been pulled down from his position of authority at the FA. But he may not be the last in the long running list of incompetents who have ruled English football since Sir Stanley Rous retired in 1962.

What a horrid, not to say squalid, affair. Lord Triesman, top banana at the Football Association, callously betrayed by a much younger girlfriend in an illicit relationship, guilty of a fatuous speculation which has deprived him of his FA position and put England's prospect of staging the 2018 World Cup in jeopardy.

Before you say that Triesman, with his negligible background in soccer — some kind of a junior level referee and little else — should never have had the FA job in the first place, crowning months of mediocrity with the daft suggestion that the Spaniards wanted the Russians to join them in the bribing of World Cup referees — consider that he was no more than the last of an endless string of incompetents.

Indeed, I would venture to say that there hasn't been an impressive, authoritative figure in charge at the FA since Sir Stanley Rous retired as secretary in 1962, having been in office since 1934, to become the President of FIFA. A role, alas, of which he was deviously deprived at the Frankfurt FIFA congress of 1974 of his office by the ineffable Brazilian, Joao Havelange, thanks to the surreptitiously acquired votes of African delegates, whose journeys to Germany he paid with money from the funds of the Brazilian Confederation. If you doubt that, then read David Yallop's devastating book, ‘How they Sold the Game'.

Rous, a huge man, once a school games master, a referee good enough to take the 1934 FA Cup final shortly before he held office. An internationalist who blew cobwebs away at the Lancaster Gate, West London, headquarters of the FA. Certainly an authoritarian. Even a snob, not too interested in the troops on the ground. After Rous, it has been downhill all the way. He may well have had his occasional liaisons, but he would never have been as fastidious as Triesman. Stranger things may have happened, but why should Spain, present World Cup favourites, with a phalanx of stars — from Torres to Xavi to Fabregas to Villa — even think about bribing referees, and why would they, anyway, turn to the Russians?

The natural successor as FA Secretary to Rous should have surely been Walter Winterbottom, manager of the England team for an unbelievable 16 years — thanks to the patronage of Rous. But if he was no great manager, he was profoundly steeped in soccer and a good administrator. But the ever vindictive Professor Sir Harold Thompson, who hated Rous, connived to see the secretaryship went to the ineffectual Denis Follows. How well I remember the evening of Follows' appointment. I was called to a BBC radio studio to interview him. Beforehand, he said, “The secretary is meant to be the servant of the Association. We all know what happened. The servant became the master.” And just as well, I thought. Poor Denis. Thompson, whom Rous used to swat like a fly, drove him into a heart attack.

If Triesman for seven years in the 1970s a committed Communist, decades after the horrors of Stalin and Lenin had been made known — embroiled himself in disastrous romance, this was hardly something new at the FA. A few years ago, both Mark Palios, then top executive, ex Tranmere Rovers footballer and City gent, had enjoyed the favours of a tempting FA Secretary Faria Alam. Palios persuaded his chief Press Officer Colin Gibson to go to the ‘News of the World' newspaper, who knew about it all, offering to spill the beans on Sven Goran Eriksson, then England's manager, who had also been involved with Miss Alam, provided they'd keep his own name out of the paper. The ‘News of the World' refused and Palios was on his way; with an inexplicably big pay off.

In charge before him was Graham Kelly, “The Jelly”, as I nicknamed him. More recently, we have had Adam Crozier for whom nothing succeeds like failure. When one knew he was a candidate for the executive job, I pointed out to David Davies, then a senior official, that he had recently been exposed in a newspaper as having “cooked” his figures as an advertising manager of a reputed newspaper. The paper generously let him stay. Surely that ruled him out of the running, I said to Davies. He told me not to worry. It was a long time till January. When the smoke cleared, January came and Crozier was elected.

Without authority, he moved the FA offices from Lancaster Gate to central London's Soho Square, at huge expense. They were too small, too dear. Last year, the FA moved out all the way to Wembley. Crozier moved on to the Royal Mail, where myriad post offices were closed and the postal service degenerated. A few months ago, he was appointed Chief Executive of the Independent Television authority. At a colossal salary of course.

Then there was Brian Barwick, who came from television and made a dog's dinner of appointing a new England manager, finally choosing Steve McClaren whose reign was disastrous even if he has now showed some form in Holland.

Triesman, nicknamed Lord Pleasedman by one journalist, was an unpopular figure at the FA and bewilderingly cultivated the support of the ineffable Jack Warner of Trinidad, whose machinations have been ruthlessly exposed in Andrew Jennings' devastating book, ‘Foul'. It was nauseating to see Warner trying to take positions of moral superiority to English football, but his position as a senior member of CONCACAF, FIFA's North and Central American section, means that he has influence over FIFA votes.

What next? Who next? I wish I could be optimistic. Oh for a Rous!