FA says Burton is safe despite Watmore's exit

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The Independent Football

The Football Association has moved to assuage fears that Ian Watmore's departure as chief executive on Monday will impede the progress of the National Football Centre (NFC) at Burton.

The NFC board chairman, David Sheepshanks, remains the project's driver, having been appointed before the arrival of Watmore nine months ago. Watmore's own commitment to the project will be one of his prime legacies to the FA.

The work he and Sheepshanks put in reflects the fact that their relationship was better than has been suggested in the aftermath of Watmore's decision to leave. Sheepshanks was one of Watmore's guests at a dinner he hosted last Thursday, the day before he told FA chairman, Lord Triesman, he was planning to quit.

The FA's new acting chief executive, Alex Horne, is also on the board of the NFC – or St Georges' Park as it is now known. Horne, 37, an accountant brought in as finance director in 2003 by then chief executive Mark Palios, declared that, while still clearing up the financial trouble caused by Wembley Stadium's construction, the NFC should be put on hold until there were adequate funds to progress.

"I'm not going to fund it out of normal cash flow, that's not appropriate. But we may still develop something there and fund it from normal capital funding," he said in September 2004, though a different financial climate now sees him as another integral part of the project as it has advanced.