'Fifa stole football from England' says Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards
Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards suffered an unfortunate day at a conference in Qatar today starting when some controversial remarks caused consternation - and ending when he fell face first into a pool.
Richards claimed this morning that FIFA and UEFA had "stolen" football from England - comments which the Premier League moved quickly to distance themselves from.
The plain-speaking Richards then told the International Sport Security Conference that Qatar must makes the sale of beer freely available at the 2022 World Cup or face a boycott by fans.
A bad day for the Yorkshireman got worse when he later fell face first into a fountain pool at a hotel in Doha after tripping on a low ledge while on the way to dinner.
An eyewitness told the Press Association: "It was quite a shallow pool but he fell into it face first, so his suit was completely soaked."
Richards had earlier raised eyebrows when he told the conference that England had given the world the game of football only to have it "stolen" from them.
He said: "For 50 years, we owned the game, we were the governance of the game. We wrote the rules and designed the pitches.
"Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you're liars and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA. Fifty years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more."
The Premier League have been privately embarrassed by the remarks and issued a statement saying: "Sir Dave is attending the conference in a private and personal capacity and his comments in no way reflect the views of the Premier League."
He also warned fans may boycott the Qatar 2022 World Cup unless beer is made freely available - the sale of alcohol is severely restricted in the Middle Eastern country.
Richards said: "In our country and in Germany, we have a culture. We call it, 'We would like to go for a pint', and that pint is a pint of beer.
"It is our culture as much as your culture [in Qatar] is not drinking. There has to be a happy medium.
"If you don't do something about it, you are starting to bury your head in the sand a little bit because it needs addressing.
"You might be better off saying don't come. But a World Cup without England, Germany, the Dutch, Danes and Scandinavians. It's unthinkable."
Hassan Al Thawadi, general secretary of Qatar 2022, has always insisted that alcohol will be available for visiting fans at special zones but he said today he did not see the need for beer to be sold in stadiums.
He said: "For me personally, I don't see the reason for it being in the stadiums, but it's something we're discussing with FIFA."
Richards, an FA board member, also launched an attack on FIFA over the failed 2018 World Cup bid.
He also said FIFA were responsible for England 2018 spending millions of pounds - he referred to £19million although FA accounts last year revealed the full cost was £21million - on a bid with the odds stacked against them by FIFA who wanted to take the World Cup to new territories.
He said: "Why couldn't FIFA have said, we want to take it to the Gulf, to the eastern bloc? We spent £19million on that bid.
"When we went for it everybody believed we had a chance. But as we went through it a pattern emerged that suggested maybe we didn't."
The Football Association tonight also distanced themselves from Richards' remarks.
An FA statement read: "Sir Dave Richards is not representing the FA at this conference and his personal views are in no way shared or endorsed by the FA.
"The FA greatly values its relationships with FIFA and UEFA, which it is working hard to strengthen."
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