The FA shambles

The English Football Association has become a place of utter chaos and mismanagement with all the wrong people holding the top jobs. Over to Brian Glanville.

Oh, dear. Here we go again. More turmoil and chaos at the Football Association which recently, in case you didn't notice, moved its headquarters all the way out of Central London to remote Wembley Stadium. Why? Because the offices in Soho Square — and you could hardly be more West End than that — though cripplingly expensive, were simply too cramped and small. How horribly significant that they had been headed by the then chief executive, Adam Crozier, the quintessential illustration of the adage that nothing succeeds like failure.

For generations, the FA offices had been cosily and conveniently located in Lancaster Gate, just down the road from Marble Arch, at the brink of the West End. Crozier of whom alas there will be more to come, decided on his own that more fashionable offices were required. So he duly leased them, without even deigning to consult the FA committee deputed to decide such things.

The rental as you might imagine was huge but in brief time, the FA decided to move out; without even having succeeded to letting the offices to anybody else, meaning that there were now two rents to pay.

The present crisis has been caused by the sudden, explosive resignation of the latest chief executive, one Ian Watmore, who lasted all of nine months.

Please don't ask me what his connection with football is or was. Or that of the current, controversial, ex-Communist chairman the deeply unimpressive Lord Triesman. As against that, a previous incumbent, Mark Palios, had indeed been a professional footballer albeit with humble Tranmere Rovers, subsequently making a career in the City.

You may remember that he was forced to resign in the most squalid circumstances. Like the amorous England manager of the time, Sven Goran Eriksson, he had had a liaison with an FA Secretary. Repugnantly, he approached the ‘News of the World' newspaper, notorious for its airing of scandals, through his head of publicity, ex-sports journalist Colin Gibson, offering them a bargain. If they would keep his name out of the scandal and put all the blame on Eriksson he would provide them with whatever information they wanted. They refused and he was forced out with a compensation payment of over £600,000.

Watmore was on a massive £500,000 a year contract and is apparently a multi millionaire already thanks to his previous appointments. As a Cambridge graduate from one of the leading colleges, Trinity, you might have expected him to speak and write decent English but you'd be disappointed. Corporate gobbledegook has more in his line. And he'd come up with such silly ideas as playing the FA Cup not at weekends but in midweek because the attendances looked bigger then. So they perhaps were, because midweek is the time when replays take place!

Now Watmore has hit the roof because it's said he wasn't able to re-jig the FA's inadequate disciplinary proceedings; and here he had a point. But he seems to have lost his temper over a minor issue, threatening fire and brimstone on whoever had leaked it.

That Watmore was frustrated with some reason is beyond doubt. The counsels of the FA have been invaded by representatives of the Premier League whose interests are largely irreconcilable. One of the least tractable of these saboteurs is Sir Dave Richards, a disaster when involved with his local club Sheffield Wednesday, the man who walked out of the committee at the FA seeking the hosting of the 2018 World Cup, but still for some reason, Chairman of the Premier League; which on its inception I christened the Greed is Good League.

You might say that the pass was well and truly sold then by the reigning Chief Executive of the FA, whom I nicknamed Kelly the Jelly. Previously the Chief Executive of the Football League, he engineered a coup with the leading professional clubs to establish a new championship, bankrolled by satellite television money, at the expense of all clubs in the lower echelons of the Football League. And this at the FA, whose historical remit was surely to hold the balance of the games and cater for its every club member. The barbarians however, were no longer at the games — for many years there had been at tension between the FA and the League. They were now well inside them.

The new Chief Executive, bewilderingly enough was Crozier. When his name appeared on the short list, the ‘Daily Mail' revealed that while working on the business side of the ‘Daily Telegraph', he had manipulated his figures, but had been forgiven. Speaking to David Davies, a senior FA figure who'd later act as a stopgap Chief Executive, I opined that Crozier couldn't possibly be taken seriously. Davies responded that there was a long time between then and January, when the appointment would be made. In January the smoke cleared and Crozier was appointed.

Needlessly addressing the dinner given by the dancing school old boys' club, he announced that he had found the FA to be “a shambles”. His response was to sack a number of old retainers, replacing them largely with £80,000 a year dolly birds with clipboards; market executives it seemed.

When he left however, before his time, it was to be appointed to a hugely lucrative job with the Post Office. And though local post offices were shut in droves, the second postal delivery was abolished and large sums of money were still lost, his own earnings and bonuses increased year by year. How inexplicably he has become top banana to Independent Television. For a fortune! Brian Barwick who came from sports Television to succeed Crozier, was a flaccid figure. He made a hash in his pursuit of Brazil's Big Phil Scolari as Eriksson's successor, and eventually lighted disastrously on Steve McClaren, ex-manager of Middlesbrough, under whom things went from bad to worse.

Yet the rot at the FA had already set in. Never more disarmingly illustrated than when the FA teemed up with the obnoxious Sports Minister, Tony Banks, to bully Manchester United, holder of the FA Cup, to eschew it for a farcical “World” competition in Brazil. The faint hope was to persuade the FIFA World Cup committee to allot the coming World Cup to England. It duly failed.

How long gone are the days of Stanley Rous. Powerful and dominating FA Secretary from 1934 to 1962, previously a leading referee, later President of FIFA. He should have been succeeded by his protégé Walter Winterbottom, 16 years in charge of the England team. But the conniving, Rous-hating Professor Sir Harold Thompson saw the job went to the feeble Dennis Follows.