Football: FA likely to resist major changes

Battle for the chairmanship: Traditionalists will back Thompson to fight off the challenge of stylish Sheepshanks

BATHCHAIRS AND ear trumpets will be in short supply in Chester this week as football's equivalent of the House of Lords, the Football Association Council, convenes for its annual meeting.

The choice of venue, an out-of-town hotel complete with three golf courses and myriad leisure facilities, might suggest that the younger members of the ageing oligarchy are finally gaining control but, this morning, in an odd alliance between ancien regime and nouveau riche, the would- be revolutionaries are likely to be put in their place.

This is when the Council's backbone, the county representatives and sundry others from such organizations as the RAF, Oxford University and the Independent Schools, determine who will replace the deposed Keith Wiseman as chairman. The smart money is on one of their own, Geoff Thompson from the Hallamshire and Sheffield FA, winning the majority of the 91 votes.

Thompson, who stepped up from deputy chairman to acting chairman when Wiseman resigned in January after being implicated in a cash-for-votes scandal, faces opposition from David Sheepshanks, the thrusting chairman of Ipswich Town and a keen moderniser.

While either would be a vast improvement on the myopic Wiseman and the later years of his octogenarian predecessor, Sir Bert Millichip, the more dynamic and independent Sheepshanks would be the better man to take the game moves into the millennium.

However, while he is supported by the Football League, for whom he was an impressive chairman, and some of the more enlightened and frustrated council members, that is unlikely to be enough to overcome the self-interest of others.

His Blairite campaign, complete with swish video launch, glossy brochure and carefully staged media appearances, has been more style than substance but it has hinted at radical change. Both presentation and message will have alienated many of the conservative council members, but the crucial factor is likely to be the Premiership's decision to back Thompson. The Sheffield JP may not be one of theirs but he has agreed to take David Richards, chairman of the Premier League, as running mate.

Richards, who is also chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, thus should defeat Ian Stott, the chairman of Oldham, in the election for deputy chairman. The subsequent Thompson-Richards partnership would be unlikely to press too hard for a levy on Premiership income or a reining in of their growing power.

While he has been a strong chairman of the disciplinary committee, Thompson's eagerness to go with public opinion, rather than personal judgement, and secure Kevin Keegan on a long-term contract as England coach did not indicate a firm and independent mind. His original verdict, that a Keegan stewardship "could end in tears rather than trophies", suggests his judgement may be shrewd but not his exercising of it.

Once the new chairman is in place the appointment of a new chief executive, to succeed Graham Kelly, will proceed. It is unlikely to go to David Davies, the former director of public affairs who has been doing Kelly's job, because of his lack of a business background. However, a high-profile role is likely to be found in which his political and media contacts can be utilised. Since he has already forged a working relationship with the less telegenic Thompson, that should not be a problem.

The rest of the weekend is mainly concerned with procedural matters, but behind the scenes there will be much lobbying over the plan to restructure the FA, which is continuing its slow progress through the bureacracy it aims to dismantle.

The successful completion of this process would significantly help the new chairman, whoever he is, in the FA's next balancing act: to convince the Government there is no need for direct intervention in football administration while continuing to indulge the barons of the Premiership whose very power makes such intervention necessary. The fact that Thompson, through a deal with the Premiership, is likely to be that man highlights the problem.

DAVID SHEEPSHANKS

Schooled at Eton, he made his fortune in the food industry before joining the board at Ipswich in 1987. Took over as chairman of the club in 1995 and the Football League a year later. Age 46 and only a Council member for two years but already on several FA and Uefa committees and a director of Wembley National Stadium Ltd.

GEOFF THOMPSON

A 53-year-old full-time football administrator graduating from general manager of Doncaster Rovers to secretary of the Hallamshire and Sheffield FA whose seat he has filled on the FA Council for 20 years. Has for many years brought his experience as a Justice of the Peace to his position as chairman of the FA's disciplinary committee.

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all