Davies put into hot seat

LIKE EMPLOYEES at a car factory facing redundancies, or at an Asian bank enduring the fall-out from financial meltdown, the 200-odd staff of the Football Association will today be gathered together and reassured, by the company's new acting head, that the crisis will pass.

It will be a busy day for David Davies, the new executive director of the FA, for the bulk of FA employees are split between sites in Lancaster Gate in West London, Wembley, and Potters Bar.

Mr Davies will also be prominent in the media, attempting to quell fears that the FA's leadership problem will affect the bid for the 2006 World Cup and calm speculation over Glenn Hoddle's future. And the former BBC political correspondent, who until yesterday was the FA's director of public affairs, must decide whether he wants to put his name forward as a candidate to permanently succeed Graham Kelly as chief executive.

Although Christmas is traditionally a busy time for the game, the crisis has come at a good time for the FA. While football matches continue, football politics take a winter break.

There are no planned meetings of Fifa or Uefa, football's world and European governing bodies, until after the New Year, by which time Keith Wiseman, the renegade FA chairman, will probably have been forcibly deposed. Mr Wiseman's intransigence, he refused to resign, despite a unanimous motion of no confidence in him by the executive committee yesterday, is a potentially serious problem for the FA. There are new challenges for the FA every day and a swift resolution is required.

Of immediate interest is next month's review of televised football contracts by the Office of Fair Trading and the Monopolies Commission investigation into Sky's takeover of Manchester United.

Mr Wiseman may be persuaded to resign before the 4 January meeting of the full council, when the odds are that he will be heavily defeated.

Either way, the FA are keen to settle both positions quickly.Though Mr Davies said that the English World Cup bid would not be affected, there would have been champagne and cheers at the offices of England's main rivals, in Germany and South Africa yesterday.

The bid has now lost contacts built up over 20 years by Graham Kelly and it will also, however unfairly, be tarnished with the whiff of sleaze.

While there is no suggestion of personal financial gain, the whole matter is, in the context of a World Cup bid, very close to the bone, considering recent allegations of vote-buying in the Olympic movement.

Mr Davies also said Glenn Hoddle's position as England manager would not be unaffected. Maybe, maybe not. Mr Hoddle is not thought to be as close to Mr Davies as might be suspected from their collaboration on Mr Hoddle's recentWorld Cup diary. That book, incidentally, did not help either Mr Kelly or Mr Wiseman, who approved it, and may hinder Davies if he seeks the top job.

That is by no means certain, though the feeling is he would be tempted. Impressive on television and a smooth negotiator he would be a strong candidate.

Rick Parry, a director of Liverpool and successful former Premier League chairman is a possible candidate, as are two Manchester United Plc directors, Greg Dyke, the TV mogul, and Sir Roland Smith.

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