Watmore's parting shot: I'll have my revenge

FA appoints temporary chief as predecessor vows to 'damage reputations' of those who undermined him
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The Independent Online

The Football Association may wait until the decision over the host country for the 2018 World Cup has been made before replacing chief executive Ian Watmore, whose departure was preceded by a vow of revenge on board members of the governing body.

The current FA chief operating officer, Alex Horne, has been appointed interim chief executive and with the FA determined not to rush the search for a sixth chief executive in less than ten years he may still be in situ by December, when England will learn if its 2018 bid has been successful.

Horne, who was on a four-man shortlist for the job when Watmore won it, and who filled in after Brian Barwick's departure in 2008, has not yet turned 40 but has six years' experience at the FA. Enjoying a good relationship with FA chairman Lord Triesman, he could take the Association through the aftermath of Watmore's fiery exit. Horne is certainly experienced enough to maintain the position until December, by which time a successful World Cup bid may have made the chief executive's role – and thus the recruitment process – a very different one.

In a 90-minute board meeting at Wembley yesterday afternoon, no plans were put in train to recruit headhunters to replace Watmore and there will certainly be no one in place before the World Cup starts in early June. Since Watmore appears only to have discussed his frustrations with FA chairman Lord Triesman there was widespread surprise at the suddenness of his resignation.

The tipping point for him was the leaking by a member of the FA board of an email Watmore had sent justifying the appointment of a new communications director. It emerged yesterday that Watmore, incandescent about the leak which saw the email published on Saturday morning, replied at 5.10pm that day: "If I ever find the person who leaked the briefing then I will ensure that that person's reputation is damaged beyond repair. This is the last time I share any information in advance. I don't know which sad person thought to brief yesterday but we know it had to be from this list as you are the only people who received it."

Since the FA's timeline of Watmore's resignation has it that the 51-year-old had announced his departure to Triesman, a day before the email was sent, it is unclear whether his vow of vengeance still stands. The email certainly bears out a view from some senior FA sources yesterday that Watmore should have stayed calmer, maintained his patience and accepted that the CEO's position at the FA demands a consensual approach to governance.

Sir Dave Richards, the FA vice-chairman, who was with Fabio Capello and Lord Triesman at a function in London last night, described as "utter rubbish" suggestions that he blocked any of Watmore's proposals, though that does not tally with the impression many FA Council members have about the relationship between the two men.

Lord Mawhinney, the outgoing Football League chairman, said last night that Watmore's departure indicated "a structural problem, not least in the relationship between the FA on one hand and the two professional leagues on the other."

Horne, hired by former chief executive Mark Palios to sort out the financial mess he inherited, will certainly be less surprised by what he encounters. The first event he organised as company secretary was the secret meeting at which Sven Goran Eriksson explained his affair with Faria Alam in August 2004.

Though the mood of yesterday's board meeting was said to be free of recriminations about why Watmore, Triesman's appointment, should have left, the mood of some members has not been so temperate in the past few days.

Watmore's email also said: "There's not a cigarette paper between me and the chairman on any issue and he is a man of ethics, character and courage, rare in my experience of any walk of life." This prompted the Bolton chairman and FA board member Phil Gartside to call for a meeting to discuss Watmore's position.

The departure is not likely to affect the 2018 bid – with Triesman and bid chief executive Andy Anson leading that project, Watmore was never involved. But it does raise questions about the speed of future progress at the National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent.

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