League accused by Triesman of bartering for Cup bid support
Former FA chairman claims Premier League would only back 2018 process in return for '39th game' approval
The Premier League's difficult relationship with former FA chairman Lord Triesman was at breaking point last night after he claimed he was asked to back plans for the controversial "39th game" in return for the league's support over the 2018 World Cup bid.
The England bid team had previously been criticised for not fully harnessing the support of the most popular league in the world. But Triesman told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee yesterday that it was the Premier League which had been slow off the mark – and that it was his opposition to the 39th game, the now abandoned idea for each club to play an extra match in a foreign country, that had been the cause.
He told MPs: "The Premier League took a very long time to come on board. It was put to me by [league chief executive] Richard Scudamore that if I thought the 39th game was a good idea they would have come on board much earlier."
The Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, did eventually become a bid director before resigning less than a year later, causing a crisis in the bid. Triesman added: "Sir Dave did come on and did a lot of travelling for the bid which I was very grateful for. When he did resign, however, he was shaking an already rather shaky machine." Triesman added that he had been surprised to read that a family company linked to Richards had won a contract from England 2018 to provide bid merchandise.
"I was very surprised. I would expect a declaration of interest by anyone whose business was supplying anything to us, regardless of value," said Triesman. "That was a guideline in the FA board."
Triesman also said the FA had been bounced into bidding for the tournament by then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. "He did not give an ultimatum – he announced it before the FA board had considered it," he said.
However, Triesman's allegations were denied by Scudamore, who said his version of events was incorrect. "I'm afraid David's recollection of the facts and the chronology is simply wrong in this instance," he said in a statement.
"I was, along with my organisation and our member clubs, always in full support of England's bid for the 2018 World Cup. It was discussed at numerous club meetings and that support was never made conditional on the international round [39th game] concept, or anything else for that matter.
"In fact, the league and its clubs had moved on from the idea of an international round some time before the FA started structuring the 2018 Bid Company and associated positions.
"I will be writing to the select committee to provide them with the accurate facts in this matter."
Mike Lee, formerly communications director of the Premier League, Uefa and London's 2012 Olympic bid, told the committee England 2018 had failed to learn the lessons of the unsuccessful 2006 bid, or take good practice from the London Olympics' successful one.
He said mistakes had included having a bid chairman who was also FA chairman; not having an independent bid company; appearing arrogant; and failing to get across the right messages.
"It was never clear what the overall strategy or compelling message of what England could offer football was," said Lee. "It sounded very arrogant, that we are the best, we have the most passionate fans – try telling that to people from Brazil and Argentina – and we have the Premier League so we must be the best."
He also said there was no "rush of activity" from the highest levels of government supporting the bid in the way Tony Blair helped London's 2012 bid.
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