The Football Association was last night licking its wounds after Scotland's John McBeth, the rank outsider, was elected to become Britain's representative on the top table of world football. McBeth, a little-known 62-year-old chartered surveyor, was expected to be no more than a token candidate yet beat the FA chairman Geoff Thompson and the two other home nations to become one of Fifa's vice-presidents in succession to David Will, who steps down in May after 17 years.
Britain has a permanent seat on Fifa's executive committee, but McBeth was considered to have had little chance, firstly because Will is also Scottish and the post has traditionally been rotated; and secondly because he is stepping down as president of his own federation in the summer.
The decision to elect McBeth will come as a massive disappointment to Thompson, a vice-president of Uefa. Last night it emerged that the FA may well have scored an embarrassing own goal in what appeared to be a case of badly managed tactical voting.
In the second round of balloting, the FA is understood to have helped to eliminate Jim Boyce, the president of the Northern Irish FA and Thompson's main rival. But the tactic backfired as Thompson failed to get enough subsequent votes, letting McBeth in through the back door.
"It's perfectly obvious what happened," said one delegate. "The FA tried to manipulate the vote, but instead shot themselves in the foot." McBeth insisted he would do his best to represent the interests of the four home associations.Reuse content