Triesman of Tottenham lands FA's top job

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A Government minister linked to the controversies over the Labour Party funding donations scandal has been appointed as the Football Association's first independent chairman.

The choice of Lord Triesman is something of a surprise. The 64-year-old has made it clear that he will resign from his political post, as minister for innovation, to take up his new role. Triesman whose first name is Brian and who was made a life peer three years ago has seen off the candidacy of Sir Roy Gardner, the former chairman of Manchester United, who was the other name on the two-man short-list.

Triesman's decision to quit politics has come as a surprise to those who know him although they insist that his commitment to football he is a season-ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur, a former youth team player for the club, patron of its foundation and a qualified referee is unquestionable. Indeed his full title is Lord Triesman of Tottenham.

Lord Triesman has been mentioned in connection with David Abrahams' use of proxy names to make donations to Labour because he was party general secretary at the time, in 2003. However, he has told the FA, in an open letter, that he had no awareness of and no involvement in the controversies and wrote to Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman who was head of the four-man selection panel for the FA's independent chair.

Triesman's letter said: "The allegations are wholly untrue. At no time did I know that the donations made in proxy names by Mr Abrahams were in fact his donations or that subterfuge was being used by anyone involved to circumvent the electoral law.

"Had I been made aware at any time of the practice I would have personally notified the Electoral Commission and taken whatever advice they gave me on notifying the police. Inside the organisation it would have been dealt with surgically."

Triesman, who has also been a foreign office minister and who worked his way up through the trades union movement, will take up the post on 16 January, so long as his appointment is ratified by the FA Council.

The selection of an independent chairman to head the organisation, and replace Geoff Thompson, who departs this month, was recommended under the reforms of the Burns report. Previously the FA had appointed from within. Mawhinney is thought to have blocked the candidacy of the former sports minister Richard Caborn, who was keen to take up the newly-created post.

"I am delighted and very honoured to have this remarkable opportunity to help lead change at the heart of English football at the Football Association," Triesman said of his selection. He will take up the salaried post for an initial three-year term and will lead the FA board and work closely with the chief executive, Brian Barwick, chairing general meetings.