Triesman quits to save bid

Thompson will head 2018 campaign after FA chairman forced out by extraordinary comments caught on tape
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The Independent Online

England's under-fire 2018 World Cup bid team will appoint the former Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson to replace Lord Triesman, who resigned as 2018 chairman yesterday after falling victim to an extraordinary honey-trap sting.

The move to appoint Thompson, who was Triesman's predecessor as FA chairman, to head the 2018 bid came after a day of drama in which the Labour peer quit as chairman of both the FA and the 2018 bid after damaging allegations he made in private were published in a Sunday newspaper.

It is the latest setback to hit England's chaotic 2018 bid but the executive hope that Triesman's swift resignation will limit the damage done by his comments, chief of which was the allegation that Russian football authorities would help their Spanish counterparts bribe referees at the World Cup finals this summer in return for favours in the bidding process. Triesman was secretly taped by a former aide with whom he had allegedly had a relationship talking over dinner on a number of topics – including former England captain John Terry's sex scandal. She offered her story to a number of national newspapers but it was the Mail on Sunday that published the conversations yesterday, prompting a meltdown at the FA.

After resigning from the 2018 bid – a job he almost lost in November during a particularly rocky patch – Triesman then offered his resignation as FA chairman to an emergency meeting of the governing body's board. Although he had made enemies among that board's members, not least the Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards, it is understood that the meeting was cordial and sympathetic.

However, the mood was unanimous that Triesman's comments had caused irreparable damage to the FA's international reputation and that there was no alternative but to accept his resignation.

The FA is already without a chief executive after the shock resignation of Ian Watmore in March and will now be without a permanent chairman until, in all likelihood, elections planned for January. In the interim, the former Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks and Roger Burden of the Gloucestershire FA will take charge of the organisation.

The 2018 bid team consider Triesman's comments so damaging that they are sending a delegation to the Fifa headquarters in Zurich in the next 24 hours to apologise in person to president Sepp Blatter. That is expected to include the chief executive, Andy Anson, David Dein, the former Arsenal chairman and now 2018 international ambassador, and chief of staff Simon Greenberg.

The visit comes after David Beckham and Triesman on Friday personally delivered the 2018 "bid book" to Zurich to launch England's campaign in earnest – a trip that was judged a success because of Beckham's closeness to Blatter.

Ironically Thompson, a secretive figure during his time as FA chairman, was cut from the 2018 bid in November by Triesman. Thompson, who also believes that Triesman hurried him out of the FA chairmanship prematurely in 2008, is on the 24-man Fifa executive committee (ExCo) that will decide the hosts for 2018.

Most damaging was Triesman's allegation about Russia who are rumoured to have committed as much as £50m to securing the 2018 World Cup finals. There has been plenty of speculation about how the Russians might put the money to use but having them articulated by the FA and 2018 chairman was awkward in the extreme.

Triesman, 66, an ex-junior minister, was quoted by his former governmental aide Melissa Jacobs, 37, as saying: "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."

Earlier, Triesman had said: "There's some evidence that the Spanish football authorities are trying to identify the referees... and pay them." Spain is one of 10 countries bidding for the 2018 World Cup and Triesman alleged that it would withdraw in return for Russia's connivance in a plot to bribe referees at this summer's World Cup finals.

Yesterday Alexei Sorokin, a representative of Russia's 2018 World Cup bid, said: "From the very beginning we've been committed to maintaining the ethical norms and the principles of fair play in our World Cup campaign. I don't know why there are so many rumours regarding Russia's World Cup bid. Maybe because we're moving in the right direction and our rivals see us as a major force and try to derail our bid campaign."

Triesman also made allegations that Latin America had "a history of extraordinary corruption" and that a delegate had asked for an honorary knighthood in return for voting for England. The Fifa ExCo includes representatives from Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Guatemala, although there is no suggestion any of these are the men Triesman referred to.

Triesman also mocked Terry for his affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-fiancée of Wayne Bridge – an episode that led to Terry being stripped of the England captaincy and Bridge retiring from international football. He told Jacobs: "I thought it was bad behaviour and very disruptive to the team. The rest of the players pretty much felt that."

Later he said that Terry "doesn't believe he did anything wrong at all. Doesn't see it. His mum and dad tell him he didn't do anything wrong... all his mates in Dagenham tell him [affecting a London accent], 'You never done nothing wrong'."

Triesman said yesterday: "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."

The acting chairmen

David Sheepshanks

Very popular and able former Ipswich chairman. Currently overseeing the building of the National Football Centre near Burton upon Trent which he is the driving force behind. A safe pair of hands.



Roger Burden

Part of the five-man group on the FA main board that represents the national game. In other words, they try to keep the professional element from dominating. Burden is the Gloucestershire FA representative.

Lord Triesman

age 66

Former member of the Communist Party, academic and Government minister. Appointed to the FA in 2008.

27

The number of months he was chairman of the FA. His predecessor Geoff Thompson lasted nine years, while Sir Bert Millichip was in office for 15 years.

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