The long journey from 'Football Focus' to focusing football

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The Independent Football

Brian Barwick is said to relish a challenge. Quite whether he's capable of handling arguably the toughest one in British sports administration remains to be seen, but at least he will take up his new position with a decent background in football-related activities and with some key allies at Soho Square.

Brian Barwick is said to relish a challenge. Quite whether he's capable of handling arguably the toughest one in British sports administration remains to be seen, but at least he will take up his new position with a decent background in football-related activities and with some key allies at Soho Square.

Both David Davies, the FA's executive director and "great survivor", and Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of development, are close associates. England's manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, will also be a supporter as long as Barwick, like his predecessors, does nothing to interfere with the Swede's day-to-day work. And, crucially, Barwick, has been voted into his new job with the backing of all six of the amateur representatives of the FA's 12-man board, as well as the support of David Dein, the Arsenal and FA vice-chairman, and Peter Heard, the chairman of Colchester.

Those who supported him yesterday will point to his broad background in sporting administration as his key asset. His supporters argue that, by surviving at the top end of the cut-throat world of sports media for more than 20 years, he has proved not only his tenacity but his ability as a negotiator and networker, key attributes for any head of the FA.

Barwick has been the controller of ITV sport since February 1998. Prior to that, he was at the BBC for 18 years, where, as the FA was keen to point out last night "he acquired an excellent understanding of the sports industry, played a major part in shaping their sporting coverage, and held several key roles including editor of Match of the Day". The FA also stressed that Barwick, a Liverpool supporter, is " a passionate football fan." He was the senior editor of the BBC's 1990 and 1994 World Cup coverage and the producer of Football Focus between 1982 and 1984.

He left the BBC as head of sport in 1995. During his time at ITV he has overseen ITV's biggest ever audience of 23.8m viewers, for England v Argentina during the 1998 World Cup. He was also responsible for televising Manchester United's dramatic 1999 Champions' League final victory over Bayern Munich, and, almost as memorably, was also responsible for persuading Des Lynam to jump ship from the BBC to ITV.

Lynam was one of his referees for the FA post, a job for which he applied after being approached by head-hunters.

Several other candidates, including Trevor Birch, the former chief executive of Chelsea, Leeds and Everton, decided against continuing their candidacies after the first round of interviews. Some candidates are understood to have been amazed that the FA seemed unable to guarantee quite what the new chief executive's remit would be.

Barwick was evidently unswayed by such trifles, but then he has proved in the past that he is a flexible operator. For example, he emerged pretty much unscathed from the fiasco when ITV's digital arm reneged on its TV deal with the Football League, which plunged many non-élite clubs into financial crisis. It is understood that Barwick lobbied to offer an alternative deal to the clubs, only to see them take up a more attractive proposal from Sky.

Barwick, who is also a published author, started his career as a reporter on his local newspaper in the North-west and in 1980 joined the BBC.

He has revamped ITV's sport coverage, including Champions' League games - which he successfully negotiated the renewal of - while briefly regaining the rights to show Premiership highlights. The former Match of the Day and Grandstand editor has no experience of running a sport's governing body but should gain it quickly, for better or worse.

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