Football: Ted Croker: success at FA: Norman Fox on the administrator with the courage to stand up to Mrs Thatcher

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The Independent Online
TED CROKER, Secretary of the Football Association during the difficult Seventies, has died, aged 68. His efforts to lead the game out of its insularity were not widely recognised but eventually allowed the FA to realise its own commercial possibilities.

Croker was not an outstanding league player. He made only eight appearances in the Charlton Athletic defence during the early Fifties. However, his move into administration brought out a talent for diplomacy and organisation at a time when the FA was still deeply rooted in old-fashioned attitudes.

The biggest hazard facing football during Croker's period in office was hooliganism and the game's credibility. When summoned to a meeting at Downing Street, he spoke up bravely while others shrank into silence.

Margaret Thatcher asked: 'What are you going to do about your hooliganism?' Croker replied: 'Not our hooligans, Prime Minister, but yours. The products of your society.'

Significantly, he was the only FA Secretary not to be knighted when he retired, although he was proud of the King's Commendation For Bravery he received as a wartime pilot.

His arrival at Lancaster Gate coincided with the sacking of Sir Alf Ramsey, but he played no part in that decision. However, he did support the controversial appointment of Don Revie, who was to cause the FA so much anguish.

And he will be remembered by many people as the man who destroyed the tradition of matches between England and Scotland. But Croker could not make such a decision on his own. The FA Council decided to abandon the oldest international fixture in the world and so ended the Home International Championship.

In recent years he fought cancer with bravery. Graham Kelly, the present FA chief executive, said he had 'tremendous personal courage'. Kelly added: 'He was in the vanguard of bringing modern commercialism into the FA, and this was a forerunner to the benefits the game is reaping now.'

Croker's efforts to attract sponsorship, and at the same time keep the game's propriety, is something football would do well to keep in mind today.

(Photograph omitted)