James Lawton: Vain self-interest defeats visionary determined to create a viable future
Game's ruling body prefers pusillanimity to progress as chief executive's resignation cedes power to greedy Premiership barons
Friday 01 November 2002
Adam Crozier should not waste too much of the rest of his life agonising over why he failed to carry the Football Association with him into the 21st century.
The explanation is simple enough. He was too good and too bright for the environment in which he found himself and, if he has any self-deprecating doubts about this, he need only examine the achievements and the values of the men who have forced him out after three years of hugely promising leadership of the national game.
Achievements? Values? You might find as many in some back-street bazaar.
Crozier has agreed to stay as chief executive through a period of "transition", which in all the tawdry circumstances is an act of considerable magnanimity. An alternative course of action recommended here would have been to fly off for a few days to his native isle of Bute. There he could have inhaled some fresh air – very good for ridding the nostrils of a stench.
The stench of quite what? Of stale vanity and the kind of instincts for power and prestige for its own sake which have long made the Football Association a laughing stock. Some of Crozier's supporters thought optimistically that he would have been helped immeasurably by the absurdly petty attack he received from the Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates, in the columns of The Times this week. There, Bates, whose own credentials for football leadership include a major role in the fiasco of Wembley Stadium and the macabre finances of Chelsea, admitted that Crozier had done much fine work, but at the same time committed such unforgivable sins as not acting enough like an "employee," of proposing the cancellation of the summer conference of the FA councillors and, horror upon horror, of denying that same august group automatic admittance to the Soho Square offices.
But the tide running against Crozier was strong enough to submerge all sense of the unworthy and the ridiculous, which was inevitably produced by the fact that alongside Bates as one of Crozier's most fervent foes was the chairman of the Premiership, Dave Richards, unrestrained by his own failures in business and the stewardship of Sheffield Wednesday.
Earlier this week Crozier was not conspicuously helped by one of his "friends", the Arsenal and FA vice-chairman David Dein, who said: "It's evident that he is seen by some to have exceeded the speed limit and caused casualties."
How do you exceed the speed limit when you are racing to save a national game which is shot through with greed and debt and which has half its clubs facing the prospect of extinction?
Crozier has let it be known that his decision to resign was largely based on the inevitability of a Professional Game Board which would take over much of the administration of the game – including the running of the national team. It would represent the ceding of power to that section of the game which has already shown itself incapable of looking beyond the next profit sheet – and whose whole future is based on the continued willingness of television magnates like Rupert Murdoch to underpin the finances of the game.
A few months ago Crozier defined the challenge facing him at the FA two and half years ago, when he was head-hunted away from his position as head of the world's biggest advertising agency, which dealt with the accounts of 35 of the top 50 multinational companies. He said: "When the FA came to me it was a dream come true but at the same time I knew all the difficulties and I had to ask myself: 'Is there a will to change?' I was told there was and so far people have been true to that."
He spoke rather too soon. The Professional Game Board seeks to run the game – and the profits. It seeks to shape the game from a position of financial power. Crozier's idea was to make the game viable at all levels, for the strong to help the weak and for a greater understanding that any league is only as strong as it most vulnerable link.
But, as any man of intelligence and achievement would, he has seen that he cannot win the battle. His comfort, when he finally gets to breathe some fresh air, is that he could have done no more.
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