Football: `Worst job in football' attracts no interest

Reform is needed if the FA is to overcome disinterest and appoint the right people.
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The Independent Online
THE FIRST day of campaigning opened yesterday in traditional fashion, with various candidates for the posts of Football Association chairman and chief executive queuing up to express a total lack of interest in the two positions.

Rick Parry, the former chief executive of the Premier League and a contender for Graham Kelly's vacant position, was the first off the mark as he declared his heart belonged at Anfield, where he is chief executive. Greg Dyke, a favoured outsider, followed quickly, accompanying his statement of disinterest with the remark: "I can't think of a worse job, the way the FA is currently structured and organised. I agree with David Mellor when he said: if ever there was an organisation where lots of men in blue blazers needed to fall on their swords, it's the FA."

Parry, though using more moderate language, said much the same, and this is at the nub of any consideration of what happens next. The FA, though it has become far more pro- active in recent years, remains hamstrung by an archaic bureaucracy in which the Royal Air Force, New Zealand and Cambridge University each have a voice but Manchester United do not. This is because the FA Council, which includes representatives of all the former among its 93 members but not United, is the ultimate decision-making body.

The FA's reformers, and there are more than might be imagined, want to replace rule by oligarchy with that of an executive board. The new chief executive would thus not be an all-powerful US-style commissioner but the head of a streamlined board which would have the power and ability to react quickly to events But there is one fundamental problem. First the FA turkeys have to vote for Christmas. That 70 per cent are needed to do so to push through reform does not make it any easier.

Should this be achieved, and there may never be a better opportunity, there could be more than two posts on offer. The chairman's job, which at present is not salaried, is a curious mix of pomp and politics. There is a lot of glad-handing of dignitaries but also the exercise of power within Uefa and Fifa. It would make sense to divide the post, with someone like Sir Bobby Charlton taking on the more ambassadorial aspects, as he is with the World Cup bid, and a political animal dealing with the internal politics of the FA and the external ones at Uefa and Fifa.

The day-to-day administration of the game is at present dealt with by committee. There are so many of these it is difficult to keep count, and most are far too big. Trying to keep abreast of them all and both implement and shape policy is the chief executive. A common complaint within the FA is the amount of time and ego-massaging required to pass the most trifling matters.

A better solution would be a cabinet operating on the same lines as that of the government. With a re-structuring of staff, and a co-opting of representatives of the PFA, the Football League and other relevant bodies as appropriate, decisions could be made with greater speed and co-ordination.

This would require a prime ministerial figure considering the broad vision - possibly the same political animal mentioned above - and a Prescott figure behind him dealing with the nuts and bolts. Others could take charge of individual departments dealing with, for example, television, foreign players and players' contracts, and the England set-up. There are already committees dealing with such issues but they are unwieldy and not part of such an integrated structure.

Which leads us to personnel. There are plenty of candidates for the figurehead, who should have the chance to make input as well. Sir Bobby and Gary Lineker are contenders but they are already involved in the 2006 bid. Bobby Robson, should he give up day-to-day coaching after his contract at Eindhoven expires in May, would be ideal.

The preferred choice for political chairman would be David Sheepshanks or David Dein. Both are effective in smoke-filled rooms as well as on television. They are also in- dependently wealthy, which may be a bonus. Either could combine this post with that of football's "prime minister", leaving David Davies, who has been coy on his ambitions, to take the John Prescott role. The check in this system would be a reformed FA Council, more representative of the modern game, which would have the power, in exceptional circumstances, to unseat the executive.

CANDIDATES FOR THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION'S TOP JOBS

CHAIRMAN

David Sheepshanks

Ipswich chairman, outgoing chairman of Football League

Impressed many with his stewardship of the Football League, where he recently stepped down as chairman. Only a council member since 1997 but involved in many FA committees. Member of the committee which investigated Wiseman's Welsh deal.

David Dein

Arsenal vice-chairman

Brought Arsene Wenger to Arsenal and already an influential voice in Uefa circles. Has done well out of football's new popularity but regarded, at Highbury, as a fan first and speculator second. From the modernising wing, joined council in 1995. Also on investigative committee.

Geoff Thompson

Sheffield & Hallamshire FA

Stepped up from vice-chairman to acting chairman in the wake of Tuesday's crisis. FA Council member since 1979 and most prominent representative of the council's bedrock, the county FAs. Plain-speaking and a JP. Third member of investigating group.

David Richards

Sheffield Wednesday chairman

The preferred choice of the Premier League two years ago, he came third behind Wiseman. Has remained low-profile since, though the regular turnover of managers at Hillsborough indicates a hard edge. Council member since 1994.

Noel White

Liverpool director

The man who brought down Terry Venables as England manager and a powerful voice on the international committee. Originally involved with Altrincham but now a key figure at Anfield. Council member since 1976 and an FA vice- president. Qualified auditor and chartered accountant.

Ken Bates

Chelsea chairman

Controversial chairman of Chelsea, now reaping rewards of years of work at Stamford Bridge. An outside choice though reported, in some quarters, to have been offered job of caretaker chairman for two years. Age 67, council member since 1992, would attempt radical change.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE

David Davies

As temporary chief, he has the chance to stake a powerful claim for the permanent position. Good on television, ambitious and energetic, he seeks to turn the crisis into a catalyst for change. Has enemies and was weakened by collaboration on Hoddle's diary. Would like to move on from press officer role but may settle for a new trouble-shooting post.

Rick Parry

Anfield's chief executive has declared himself out of the running, but you never know. Impressed many with his smooth handling of egos as the Premier League's first chief executive and knows the FA's weaknesses. May be hard to prise from Liverpool, where his heart and home are.

Richard Scudamore

Head-hunted to lead the Football League and already showing dynamism required at Lancaster Gate. Former referee who was working in business in USA when the League called. Would become a strong candidate if Sheepshanks is elected chairman.

Gordon Taylor

Former Blackburn winger who has turned the players' union into one of the game's most pro- active and successful bodies. A good negotiator with the game at heart, but he may feel he is more influential where he is rather than be hamstrung by FA bureacracy. The FA may also blanch at his pounds 350,000 salary.

Peter Leaver

Currently chief executive of the Premier League but under criticism for autocratic manner. Lawyer and long-time Tottenham fan with a sharp mind.

Greg Dyke

Knowledge of television, football and business, he is well qualified. Currently on board of Manchester United plc and believed to be one of the doubters on the Sky bid.

Sir Roland Smith

An alternative outsider, he is a former Bank of England director, university professor and business consultant, who is also on United's plc board.

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