Brooking steps up to chair Sports Council

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TREVOR BROOKING is to be the new chairman of the English Sports Council. The appointment of the 50-year-old former England and West Ham star, to be formally announced tomorrow, ends months of controversy, intrigue and jockeying for position in the race for a post that has seen almost as many runners, riders and fallers as in yesterday's Grand National.

Sports Council members will be told of the elevation of the sitting tenant at their monthly meeting in Nottingham by Chris Smith, Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It will be a popular decision. "This has been one of the most ludicrous cock-ups in the history of English sport," said one Sports Council member. Brooking's three-year appointment signifies a late concession by the Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, that he is the best man for the job - even though Banks insisted it should go to a woman as part of his pledge to get more female and ethnic representation at the top level in sport.

The former Olympic javelin champion Tessa Sanderson was his preferred choice but two selection panels and his boss refused to back Banks in his efforts to override the recommendations. It was felt that while Sanderson had the personality she lacked administrative nous, whereas Brooking is an experienced leader and has done a solid job as acting chairman for the past nine months.

Brooking was one of two names put forward last December by a selection panel who interviewed five candidates - three women and two men. The second male candidate, the black youth worker Geoff Thompson, was the panel's other nominee. After Banks' refusal to appoint either, head-hunters were brought in and a fresh batch approached. These included Sebastian Coe, Alan Pascoe, Brendan Foster and Duncan Goodhew.

But after Brooking had made it known he would quit his interim post unless a firm decision was made, Banks was finally persuaded to agree to a compromise deal - as forecast in these pages. Brooking becomes chairman and his former post as vice-chairman will be filled by a woman, with Sanderson as the front runner.

Brooking said yesterday that while he had received no formal notification he would be attending today's meeting with "some optimism". He added: "I am just glad that this long drawn-out affair seems to have been settled and we could move forward positively."