Dein hired to boost 2018 World Cup bid

Former Arsenal chief ends exile by taking lobbying role in restructured England team
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The Independent Football

David Dein will make a dramatic return to football wheeler-dealing with a key international role in England's bid team for the 2018 World Cup. His precise role has yet to be defined but the move was rubber-stamped at an emergency meeting yesterday, when the bid board was streamlined in the hope it can become more effective after months of turbulence and setbacks.

Dein was not present at the meeting because he was attending a conference in Nigeria, but is likely to begin his new duties within weeks, travelling the world to try to secure votes among the 24 Fifa executive committee members who will decide in December next year which nations will stage the World Cups of 2018 and 2022.

Dein, 66, the former Arsenal vice-chairman, has effectively been in exile from the corridors of power since April 2007 when he left the north London club because of "irreconcilable differences" with the board. He subsequently sold his shareholding of almost 15 per cent of the Gunners to the Uzbek billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, for £75m.

Dein's hope at the time was that he would be able to engineer a return in an important post at Arsenal – and probably the corridors of power at the Football Association, where he was vice-chairman from 2000 to 2004 – via an Usmanov-led takeover. But with Stan Kroenke in the driving seat for control of the club, and Dein's relationship with Usmanov increasingly distant, that now seems a forlorn hope.

Dein built a reputation at Arsenal and at the FA as one of the most astute networkers and deal-makers in world football. He hired Arsène Wenger, then a little-known manager, for Arsenal in 1996, and was later instrumental in hiring England managers, notably Sven Goran Eriksson in 2001, when the Swede was seen as an inspired choice. He worked closely with Wenger on transfers, set up an international network to identify talent, and even put in place co-operation agreements with foreign clubs to smooth the passage to London of wanted players. He is a political operator in many senses.

The streamlined bid board will be reduced from 13 people to seven, headed by Lord Triesman, the FA chairman who is widely seen as a divisive figure but who keeps his place in charge because Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, dictates that FA heads must also head up bids. Also keeping their board roles will be Lord Mawhinney (who will step down as the Football League's chairman in March), Sir Dave Richards (chairman of the Premier League), Lord Coe (successful with the 2012 London Olympic bid), Andy Anson (bid chief executive), Geoff Thomson (former FA chairman and Fifa executive member) and Paul Elliott, the former player and current chairman of the 2018 Inclusivity Advisory Group.

The ousted members of the board will now form an advisory group to the main board in a think-tank panel headed by Karren Brady. Yesterday's meeting was described as "constructive" and "positive" and the new-look board will now take on greater responsibility for the day to day running of the campaign. Dein will not be on the bid board.

Mawhinney will stand down in March having held the post for over seven years. As well as the League's rebranding in 2004, he has overseen the introduction of the fit and proper persons test for prospective club directors and the publication of spending on agents' fees. "It has been a privilege to serve the Football League. I have greatly enjoyed the challenge," he said.

75 million pounds

Received by David Dein in 2007 from the Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov for his 15 per cent holding in Arsenal.