Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards has thrown England's 2018 World Cup campaign into disarray by resigning from the bid board.
Richards today sent a letter to Lord Triesman, chairman of the bid and the Football Association, saying that he would continue to support the campaign but no longer wanted to be on the board.
The resignation comes as a devastating blow to bid leaders, and especially to Triesman, who had hoped to draw a line under recent turmoil by streamlining the board at an emergency meeting 10 days ago.
Richards said in a statement released to Press Association Sport: "With the recent changes to the England 2018 Bid team structure, I feel I can now best support a successful bid without the necessity of sitting on the Board.
"My positions as Premier League chairman, FA board member and chairman of the FA's international committee provide me with ample opportunities to bang the drum for English football, and the bid particularly, right across the world, which I will continue to do wherever and whenever I can.
"My belief is that England has all the right attributes to host a successful FIFA World Cup - our challenge now is to convince the 24 members of FIFA's ExCo [executive committee] of that. This must be our focus and priority going forward."
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, who himself agreed to step down from the board the week before last to give it more of a football focus, expressed his disappointment.
Sutcliffe told Press Association Sport: "I'm sad about that and disappointed.
"Dave Richards has great skills and contacts around the world, so I'm pleased he will still be in contact with the bid.
"We had hoped to create a more football-focused board so I hope someone else to represent the Premier League will now go on the bid board in his place."
The shock move highlights the underlying tensions between the Premier League and the FA.
Richards was initially ignored when Triesman put the bid board together and then, on the insistence of bid chief executive Andy Anson, was persuaded to join so the bid could harness the international clout of the Premier League.
In recent weeks though the bid has been through turmoil. Outspoken criticism of the campaign by FIFA vice-president Jack Warner was followed by the revelations that the bid were giving designer handbags to the wives of FIFA members.
Warner returned the gift, angry that his wife had been exposed to embarrassment, and sent a furious letter to Triesman.
Some board members and the Government became increasingly concerned at the direction of the bid and this led to a crisis meeting on November 12 where a seven-member streamlined board was announced.
This included FIFA vice-president Geoff Thompson for the first time and included Triesman, Richards, Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney, Lord Sebastian Coe, Paul Elliott, 2018 chief executive Andy Anson.
Original board members such as David Gill, Sir Keith Mills and sports minister Sutcliffe joined an advisory group headed by Karren Brady.Reuse content