The Last Word: Please put this 'clown' Jack back in his box

Having to suck up to Warner is why England should never have bid for 2018 World Cup
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The Independent Online

It cannot be easy being Jack Warner. On Tuesday you feel obliged to tell a football association sitting in front of you that they are a bunch of lightweights who wouldn't know a World Cup bid from a jolly in London. And in the three working days thereafter you not only have to rip up the sport's rulebook, inventing new laws on the spot, but also return home to inform your country that the public has lost confidence in its government.

Yes, it must be hard, but very gratifying. Fancy possessing all the answers, as well as the access to the podiums on which to have them heard? Thank goodness men like Warner are so giving of their time that they can take up so many positions of power. I mean, what would football and Trinidad do without him as the Fifa vice-president and a leading opposition MP?

In England the answer might well be "host a World Cup", although to some of the footballing powerbrokers having to bow and scrape, it could be "look myself in the mirror". The problem is that Lord Triesman and the rest of the FA could never answer honestly because Warner holds the key to so many votes. Here is the living, bequeathing proof why England should never have bothered with a bid. Having to suck up to the likes of him just isn't worth the saliva.

In an ideal world, the FA could follow Roy Keane's lead a few years ago. After Warner criticised the then Sunderland manager for not releasing Dwight Yorke, Keane told him he was a "clown" and vowed to have nothing more to do with him. "Everybody talks about owners and chairmen in football," said Keane. "But if he's vice-president of Fifa, God help everybody."

How those comments chimed last week at Stamford Bridge when Warner proudly took his place as the first speaker at "The Leadership Summit", which, with its grand title, perhaps inspired those at the pulpit to play The Big I Am. Warner certainly did. If his ultimatum to the FA to employ David Beckham and/or the Queen to lead the 2018 campaign did not stand up to serious scrutiny, some of his arguments could barely raise themselves off the floor they were so laughable.

Sadly, Warner was actually praised for calling for divers to be sin-binned. At Chelsea HQ he suggested they receive a five-minute punishment, but then warming to his theme in front of the Sky Sports cameras he updated this to 10 minutes (far more statesmanlike). It was left to Graham Poll to appear on screen to advise that because of the muddled ruling concerning what does and does not constitute "diving", or as it is termed in the rulebook, "simulation", this would not be as wonderfully effective as it sounds. And whose muddled ruling is this? You've got it: Fifa's.

Unfortunately, Poll was not asked to comment on another of Warner's revolutionary "tweaks". The free-kick wall isn't very fair, it's too wide and evidently stops specialists like his beloved Beckham converting more of their majestic curlers. So here's what Jack would do: limit the number of players who can form the wall to the number of players who committed the foul. Hey presto, most of the time the dead-ball merchants will have only to bypass one body.

Now, just run this through in your mind, forgetting for a moment just how tricky it might be to stop team-mates from standing next to each other. Think of the foulers suddenly hunting in pairs, in threesomes or foursomes maybe. Think how numbskullingly stupid this idea is. And then consider that this has come from the mouth of a human being who happens to be the second most powerful executive in football; a vice-president who has a huge influence on the game's future.

Frightening? Well, if that's the case, I won't mention how Warner wants to reduce teams to 10 players or that he wants the penalty area condensed to nine yards by nine yards (which by my hasty reckoning would result in fewer penalties and more free-kicks blocked by, yes, those damn walls).

When Warner ever opens his mouth wide enough to appear in the British press nowadays, there are always subtle mentions about a past that might just be considered chequered. How he was publicly censured by Fifa after being implicated in selling tickets for three times their face value at the 2006 World Cup. How, in a Panorama expose, he was accused by a former Scottish FA president of asking for Trinidad's match fee to be paid out to him, personally.

But there's really no need for all that. Just report exactly what he says. Warner slaughters his own legitimacy by his own ignorance and, rather inevitably, by his own hubris. In an interview with the Trinidad Guardian in 2000, the former teacher turned multi-millionaire said: "I began buying properties across Trinidad from the salary and allowances I received from Fifa. This made it easy for me to invest. I have had one or two good fortunes."

But still the FA have to take him seriously, as does Sepp Blatter, who is just as reliant on Warner's votes for his presidency. That says everything about the state of football and its rulers. Have Fifa's executive really descended into such a pit of self-obsession that they cannot weigh up a bid purely on its merits? That instead, they require a footballing superstar or the planet's leading royal to show up and assure them how important they all are?

Why not get Simon Cowell involved and make it a popularity show with viewers paying 50p a phone vote? Who would win between Nelson Mandela and Her Royal Highness, between Pele and Beckham and, who knows, between Dylan and McCartney?

But then believe Warner and, effectively, Fifa are already at that stage. When England lost the 2006 bid, a "source", told The Guardian: "Bobby Charlton is a great name but does not have the same standing as Franz Beckenbauer." And that's Fifa, for you. Sir Bobby isn't good enough. Jack Warner is.

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