Blow for England manager Roy Hodgson as FA blocks David Bernstein extension
A draw in Warsaw, defeat at Wembley yesterday for Roy Hodgson, who will lose an important ally next summer when the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, is forced to step down.
Bernstein had hoped to continue in the post, which he took up in January 2011, by dint of an amendment to FA articles that would enable him to serve beyond the age limit of 70 imposed a few years ago as a response to suggestions that the governing body was run by old men. However, the FA Council, which itself contains many members well into their eighties, refused to ratify the amendment, which had been proposed by the FA Board.
Bernstein, who will be 70 in May, will thus have to retire at next June's AGM. The board had hoped he could remain in the post until summer 2014.
So, too, will have Hodgson. Bernstein was influential in his appointment ahead of Harry Redknapp and the two men had struck up the type of rapport a manager values when results start to go awry, as they inevitably do at some stage. Instead he will have to forge a new relationship with Bernstein's successor, who will be the fourth chairman in six years of an organisation which suffers endemic instability.
The England manager said of Bernstein: "I've got a good relationship with DB. I can't boast he's a good friend of mine. He's the person who appointed me and I've worked closely with him in my five months. But these decisions aren't to do with me and the football. That's a matter for the FA, my employers, albeit I've enjoyed working with him and will do through to July."
There seemed, in the decision, to be a degree of sabre-rattling pique from the FA Council, some of whose senior members feel they have been marginalised by the FA's trend – encouraged by Government and long-overdue – towards streamlining key decisions. It certainly seems perverse that one of Bernstein's key opponents was reported to be Noel White, once one of the FA's kingmakers, but now 86 years of age himself. Even if the prevailing view of the dissenters was the one given in an FA statement – "that it would be inappropriate to change known and agreed rules on an individual basis" – it only needed three members motivated by slighted pride or a personal grudge to turn a vote that is understood to have been 45-40 against the amendment.
David Dein, Arsenal vice-chairman until he threw his lot in with Alisher Usmanov and well-connected in football circles, was immediately installed as favourite to succeed to the post, but he had been expected to become chairman when Bernstein took over so will not be assuming anything.
Bernstein, an accountant with a background in retail, spent five years as chairman of Manchester City either side of the Millennium and has been chairman of Wembley Stadium since 2008, successfully refinancing the debt incurred in its construction.
He took over as chairman from David Triesman, who, having made enemies in the game, skewered himself by making unwise observations to a young dinner date in a newspaper sting. Bernstein immediately impressed by taking on Fifa in an undemonstrative but firm manner. He has subsequently overseen the governing body's response to the Luis Suarez and John Terry racism sagas and the opening of St George's Park.
Bernstein said in response to the vote, for which he had to absent himself from the room: "I respect the decision and I remain committed to fulfilling my responsibilities and to building on what we have achieved over the past two years."
Next year is the FA's 150th anniversary, marked by the Champions League returning to Wembley and the hosting of the Uefa Congress. Bernstein will still be in the post, but as a chairman his influence will be limited.
Next FA chairman: Current favourites
Former Arsenal vice-chairman, and former vice-chairman of the FA.
The Manchester United chief-executive is on the FA board and was expected to become vice-chairman.
The FA general secretary played a key role in Wembley's development.
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