Master of jargon talks way into FA

Criticised by MPs for ‘impenetrable’ reports, the former civil servant Ian Watmore takes over at Soho Square
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The Independent Football

A senior civil servant in charge of a Government department that was criticised last month for producing reports full of “impenetrable” language “peppered with jargon” was yesterday announced as the next chief executive of the Football Association.

Ian Watmore, 50, a lifelong Arsenal fan whose current job is Permanent Secretary for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, will succeed Brian Barwick as chief executive when he takes up his new post in June.

Watmore was chosen by the FA after proving himself to be “the outstanding candidate” of three|interviewed by the FA. The shortlist included Arsenal’s former managing director, Keith Edelman, plus someone from the business world.

Watmore’s job will be to oversee the day-to-day running of the FA, providing the infrastructure that Fabio Capello requires to get the best from England, nurturing the game’s grassroots and working to create harmony among all football’s “stakeholders” from the professional and amateur sides of the game.

The National Football Centre in Burton will be high on his agenda – whether to go ahead with plans to make it a hub of coaching excellence or scrap it. England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup will be less of an issue for Watmore. A separate bid company has been formed to take care of that.

Watmore arrives at an otherwise “calm” time for the FA, as one insider described it yesterday. If use of |jargon is his worst error in office, nobody at Soho Square will complain. When MPs on a Commons select committee made their negative comments last month about DIUS’s reports, Watmore conceded the language was “inaccessible” and promised to fix the problem.

Watmore’s appointment will inevitably elicit criticism that the FA and its offshoot groups, under chairman Lord Triesman, is becoming an “old pals club” of Triesman’s political contacts. Triesman and Watmore know each other from working together at the DIUS. Triesman has also been joined by a handful of politicians on the 2018 bid campaign board.

Yet Watmore is described by those who know him as a “decent, ordinary bloke who likes his football and cares about the game. If he’s perceived as a bit grey he can hardly be described as having a career in politics.” Indeed Watmore, who is married with four teenaged sons, has spent 24 years of a 30-year career working in the private sector, mainly in IT. He lives in the north-west and, as well as supporting Arsenal, watches Altrincham in the Blue Square Premier “when he is not watching his sons playing in the Cheshire and South Manchester leagues.”

“I am delighted to be joining the Football Association as chief executive,” Watmore said. “It is a great challenge and one I am really looking forward to. With Lord Triesman and the [FA] Board, Fabio Capello and the FA’s staff, I want to ensure we are achieving success on and off the pitch across all levels of the game.”

Triesman said: “We had a very strong shortlist of candidates, but in Ian we have the right person to lead the organisation as chief executive officer.

“The FA is committed to maximising participation across all levels of football in this country, helping the England teams and our clubs achieve success on the pitch, while also being trusted to govern the game.”

From IT to FA: Watmore’s CV

1958 Born 5 July, Bromley

1977 Studies Mathematics and Management Studies at Cambridge.

1980 Joins Andersen Consulting.

2000 Named managing director of Accenture UK.

2004 Joins civil service as Government Chief Information Officer.

2005 Receives Outstanding Contribution to IT award for work on Transformational Government strategy. Appointed head of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit.

2007 Appointed Permanent Secretary for Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.