Triesman quits FA after making bribe allegations

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The Independent Football

The Football Association was forced to make a speedy appointment last night to replace Lord Triesman who was forced to step down as head of England's 2018 World Cup bid after he was secretly recorded making allegations that Spain and Russia were colluding to bribe referees at this summer's World Cup.

Geoff Thompson, Fifa's vice president, had been appointed "with immediate effect" a statement said last night. It read: "Following the unanimous approval of the Football Association Board, Geoff Thompson has tonight been confirmed as the new Chairman of England 2018."

Thompson, who is a vice-president on both the Fifa and Uefa Executive Committees, is England's most senior international football administrator.

It continued: "He was part of the five-person delegation which delivered England's Bid Book to Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Zurich on Friday and was chairman of the FA for nine years between 1999 and 2008."

Lord Triesman's resignation followed an emergency FA board meeting at Wembley yesterday. It was only on Friday that he travelled to Zurich with David Beckham to present the 2018 bid book to Fifa. On Saturday, he sat next to Prince William at the FA Cup final at Wembley.

In his remarks to a female former aide, which were published in a Sunday newspaper, Lord Triesman said Spain would withdraw its bid for the 2018 World Cup if Russia, which is also bidding to host the tournament, helped bribe referees at this summer's World Cup.

Lord Triesman said: "My assumption is that the Latin Americans, although they've not said so, will vote for Spain. And if Spain drop out, because Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia."

Triesman and the FA had sought to obtain an injunction to prevent publication of the story but the request was thrown out.

Yesterday, in a statement, Lord Triesman said: "I have decided to resign as chairman of the FA and the 2018 bid board. "A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge and passed to a national newspaper. That same friend has also chosen to greatly exaggerate the extent of our friendship.

"In that conversation, I commentated on speculation circulating about conspiracies around the world. Those comments were never intended to be taken seriously, as indeed is the case with many private conversations."

Sources say the team in charge of the 2018 bid have faxed letters of apology to the Spanish and Russian football associations. The Russian Football Union said yesterday that Triesman's claims were "absurd". The Spanish Football Federation was unavailable for comment. However, according to government sources there has been concern in footballing circles for some time about corruption surrounding the Russian bid.

Lord Triesman's dinner companion was Melissa Jacobs, a 37-year-old civil servant he employed as a private secretary when he was a minister at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and who claims to have had a close relationship with the Labour peer. The resignation could be a serious blow to England's hopes of staging the tournament. Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, was already believed to favour the Russian bid. He recently described it as "remarkable" and added: "England winning [the right to stage the tournament] – I am not so sure."

The sports minister, Hugh Robertson, said it was right for Triesman to step down. "It's very sad for Triesman, who has been betrayed," he told The Independent. "Clearly this is not good news for the bid – it would be ludicrous to pretend otherwise – but the fundamentals are still in place there and remain as strong as ever."