'Bring the fans and the players on side' is the new Kirton call
Graham Kelly, Adam Crozier, Mark Palios; a football admin-istrator, a marketing man, an old pro turned accountant. Now where should the Football Association turn for their next chief executive?
Glen Kirton, 25 years an FA man before moving on after running Euro 96, would love the job but feels that at 57 time is not on his side. Considering the organisation's image, some would say he is too young. Having preserved a respectful silence about his old employers, he is now ready and willing to offer some pertinent observations about the qualities required for the job and the opportunity offered to the organisation to win back some much-needed respect at home and abroad.
Kirton's view of the last two incumbents is that they were set too limited a goal: "The FA narrowed their focus too much, first with Adam, to bring about a revolution in marketing, and then with Mark, needing somebody to get them back on the financial straight and narrow.
"In the end, Adam felt he wasn't supported in the power struggle and Mark, as we know, left for reasons that were nothing to do with his performance in the job.
"The essentials of the job are firstly to look after internal management and secondly to look after external relationships and the things that go with it, like public image. Of course, you need financial common sense, but never lose sight of the fact that it's football you are talking about. Football is different.''
With foreign-language skills that were something of a rarity at what was then Lancaster Gate, Kirton was always aware of the need to look outwards. Having left W2 after working as tournament director of Euro 96, he continued to do so in new positions with ISL, the marketing arm of the world governing body, Fifa, and now as chairman of The Navigator, a sports marketing company.
Close relations with Fifa and the European governing body, Uefa, convinced him of England's declining position in world football politics which, he says, is a serious challenge for the new CEO to meet: "Britons and the English in particular find it difficult making other people warm to them. The World Cup 2006 campaign was a very good one but it failed because it didn't make enough people feel good about themselves.''
He would like to see another English bid soon, which will not be possible if Fifa persist with their new policy of allowing each of the five confederations round the world to stage the finals in strict rotation. "Uefa will try to resist that concept and England can play a big role in being an intermediary. We don't want to have to wait until 2026 for another go.''
At home, Kirton would like to see England keeping a number of international matches in the provinces even after the new Wembley stadium is finished, and finding a voice for supporters and players at all levels within the game's parliament, the FA Council. "The FA were right in the past to resist the involvement of supporters when they were merely small pressure groups. But now there are signs that the various groups are joining together and acting more coherently. So I feel they are entitled to some form of democratic representation on the council. Ditto the players, in the widest sense. The PFA are an extremely powerful organisation, but they represent only a small percentage of players in this country.
''The FA have tackled the issue of where the power lies and moved the council back from being the main decision- maker to a sort of upper chamber, which is fine. For instance, the county associations on it represent 43,000 clubs. But there are two missing groups in the FA structure, and a stand-off them-and-us relationship appears to have developed between the FA, clubs and players. The new man has to address that.''
And a name to build new bridges if too much water has passed under Glen Kirton's? "It ought to be possible to find an individual who has the qualities of leadership and then select specialists to work with him, allowing him to concentrate on the bigger picture. I think Sir Trevor Brooking would be an excellent candidate - if he's interested.''
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