FA draws battlelines as Barwick takes over

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The Independent Football

Brian Barwick was last night appointed as the new chief executive of the Football Association after a day of heated debate that could yet lead to major conflict within the game's governing body.

Barwick, 50, currently the controller of sport at ITV, will succeed Mark Palios, who resigned in August over the Faria Alam débâcle. He is due to begin work at Soho Square on 31 January but whether the 12-man board will remain unchanged until then is in doubt.

Barwick's appointment was made after a vote in which at least two board members abstained and after arguments over his suitability for the job.

"It's a disgrace," one source said. "This appointment has effectively been made by the amateur game [as opposed to the professional game] to ensure they got someone who would provide least resistance to them in the future."

The board comprises four Premiership chairmen, two from Football League clubs, six figures from the amateur game, plus the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson. The power struggle within the FA revolves around a core of professional-game "modernisers" wanting to prise more power from the amateur "blazers".

The Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, wants the FA reformed. Caborn has been instrumental in forcing a strategic review of the FA, due to start in January, which might conceivably end with Barwick's powers being curtailed. Yet the "modernisers" feel that Barwick, who relied on "amateur" support for his appointment, will resist major changes.

Barwick topped a shortlist of three including Richard Bowker, the former head of the Strategic Rail Authority, and a candidate from the business world whose identity was not made known by the FA.

Barwick will take over at Soho Square while the independent review of the FA is still being carried out. Several members of the board had opposed any appointment until that review had been completed, and are known to feel especially aggrieved with Barwick's appointment. Barwick, who is much older than the other candidates, had "the least impressive CV", according to one source.

Thompson said last night: "We are delighted to have appointed a new chief executive and we look forward to Brian joining us. We had very strong candidates but, in Brian, we have found an exceptional individual with the qualities and experience to lead a talented team of people at the FA.

"The FA is committed to the continued development of the game at every level, the highest standards of governance and the successful redevelopment of Wembley Stadium. This is good news for the FA and for English football."

Barwick said: "It has been a momentous day for me personally. I am looking forward to taking up the challenge of leading the FA into their next era.

"I must place on record sincere thanks to my colleagues at ITV for their support and understanding during this period."

Caborn said: "Brian combines a great understanding of football and an excellent business pedigree. I have no doubt he will work closely with the review team on the modernisation of the FA and I look forward to our dealings in the near future."

The first interviewee yesterday was the so-called "Third Man" candidate, a late entry to the shortlist, understood to be the head of an organisation which did not know he had applied for the post. The FA was at pains to keep his identity secret and he came and went anonymously.

Barwick, who spent 18 years at the BBC before taking up the top job in sport at ITV, spent the longest period of time in front of the board. He was followed by the final candidate, Bowker, 38, whose performance impressed several board members more than Barwick's had. "Barwick is categorically the wrong man," one disillusioned voter said.

At least four board members did not think the FA should be appointing any successor to Palios before the completion of the strategic review.

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