The Football Association chief executive, Brian Barwick, was last night forced out by the governing body after a power struggle at the very top of the English game. The man who appointed Fabio Capello in December fell victim to the all-powerful new regime of the new FA chairman, Lord Triesman.
The former Labour Party general secretary, appointed in January 2008, has gradually chipped away at the status and influence of Barwick, appointed in January 2005, since he joined the organisation. Matters came to a head at the FA's board meeting yesterday when Barwick said that he had no option but to leave because he had been undermined by Triesman, who has sought to take control of the organisation at all levels. Barwick's departure was sudden and he did not take his usual place as part of the group of so-called dignitaries meeting the players before last night's Wembley game.
Triesman already has a ready-made replacement for Barwick, Alex Horne who joined the FA from Wembley. Most of all Barwick's ousting shows just how powerful the FA chairman has become. Triesman is working as a full-time executive, the original plan was for him to go back to a three-day week but no date has been set for that to happen.
Never rated by Triesman, Barwick, who will officially leave at the end of the year, has been forced out as the FA chairman sought to take control of all the governing body's major responsibilities – the key one being the administration of the 2018 World Cup bid. It is ironic that Triesman has proved to be the downfall of Barwick because it was the Liverpudlian who forced through the controversial Burns review recommendations at the FA last year. Chief among those recommendations to change the structure of the organisation, made by Burns in August 2005, was the appointment of an independent chairman for the FA.
A notoriously difficult job – Mark Palios and Adam Crozier both fought memorable losing battles as the FA chief executive – Barwick will claim the implementation of the Burns review as one of his major successes. There were a few failures too, chief among them the bungled attempt to sign Luiz Felipe Scolari as the new England manager in 2006 which ended in ignominy. Steve McClaren's appointment will hardly be remembered as a success story either.
A former television executive, Barwick was not an accomplished performer in front of the press and at one toe-curling press conference famously insisted that McClaren had always been his first choice as England manager. He was always likely to struggle against the more slick, politically astute Triesman, who many at the FA regard as just the kind of heavyweight networker capable of representing the organisation in government and around the world.
Barwick's biggest ally at the FA, the lawyer Simon Johnson, had already had the ignominy of having his job as chief operating officer advertised while he has been in Beijing representing the FA at the Olympics. Johnson joined Barwick from the Premier League and was regarded as the man who guided the former FA chief executive through certain aspects of the job. Johnson was due to play a major role in the 2018 bid but that now looks highly unlikely.
Barwick never really had a major power base at the FA. Those representing the grass-roots felt squeezed by the Burns review and some of the powerful figures like Sir Dave Richards and Lord Mawhinney were unhappy at what they thought was Barwick's attempt to railroad them into agreeing to Capello's £6m-a-year contract. Barwick convened the FA board by a telephone conference rather than in person.
"I am sad to be leaving the FA – an organisation it has been a privilege to lead – but I believe it is in the best interests of all parties," said Barwick in a statement.
Triesman paid tribute to Barwick, despite being the pivotal figure in his departure. "Brian leaves with our best wishes for the future and will always be welcome back as our guest at Wembley," he said.