Leading Article: Final whistle for the amateurs in blazers

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The Independent Culture
NOTHING HAS quite so become Graham Kelly's time at the Football Association as the manner of his leaving, for at least he went with dignity. Which is more than can be said for his chairman, Keith Wiseman.

Wiseman's refusal to go quietly says as much about the way the Football Association is structured as about himself. Giving away "a gift" of more than pounds 3m without board sanction or corporate supervision is a sackable offence in any business. To say that it was done in in the interests of securing the World Cup for Britain in 2006 only makes it worse. If England really wants to play in the world league, they need to show that the nation that founded so many sports in its public schools now has sports administrators who are imbued with a totally professional outlook.

But as the events of this week have shown, this is the very quality that is lacking in the Football Association. Like so many other sports in Britain - cricket, athletics, tennis, both codes of rugby, to name but a few - the governing body of football is largely a ramshackle club of amateurs helplessly trying to cope with a modern world of professionalism. Balancing the demands of fans with those of business is not easy. But this is all the more reason why it can no longer be left to the men in blazers, many of them seemingly more interested in securing cup final tickets than in running the game efficiently.

For the moment, however, the focus is on football. At least the departure of Mr Kelly provides an opportunity, and a motive, for the FA to restructure itself by improving its management, reforming its controlling bodies and putting real teeth into its regulation. To start with, we must hope it appoints a new chief executive with the vision, toughness and single-mindedness that are so essential to succeed in sport but so lacking in its management.

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