Barwick had votes in the bag before FA interview

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The Independent Online

Brian Barwick, who was appointed as the FA's next chief executive late on Thursday evening, had effectively secured his new job before the final round of interviews even took place.

Brian Barwick, who was appointed as the FA's next chief executive late on Thursday evening, had effectively secured his new job before the final round of interviews even took place.

That was the view yesterday among several of the six "professional game" representatives on the FA's 12-man board, who had expected a level playing field for the three shortlisted candidates on Thursday. But they arrived to find Barwick evidently had three votes in the bag before kick-off, and another five had apparently been guaranteed as part of a done deal within the amateur game.

Barwick's three certain votes came from Arsenal's vice-chairman, David Dein, Colchester's Peter Heard, and Ray Kiddell of the Norfolk FA. That trio and the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson, were the four members of the nominations committee who narrowed the search for Mark Palios's successor.

On Thursday, they presented their final three candidates - Barwick, ITV's Controller of Sport; Richard Bowker, the former head of the Strategic Rail Authority; and Peter Mather, a leading BP executive - and then formally recommended Barwick for the job.

Kiddell's vote was supplemented by the other five from the amateur game, leaving a minority of the board - the four professional representatives apart from Dein and Heard - fuming at the "shoo-in".

That quartet, made up of the Premier League's chairman Dave Richards, Southampton's chairman Rupert Lowe, Bolton's Phil Gartside and Ipswich's David Sheepshanks, had had serious reservations about whether any appointment should have been made at all.

An independently-headed strategic review of the FA, due to start in January, may yet fundamentally alter Barwick's job, and with most of the professional game lobbying for wider powers within the FA, they felt his post could remain unfilled for a while longer. Their indignation intensified when, in their opinion, Barwick was not even the best man on the day. Both other candidates, according to one source, were "streets ahead" in their interview performance, and both were more attractive than Barwick to the modernisers on the board.

The bitterness caused by Thursday's events is sure to undermine Barwick's aim of bridging the acrimonious divisions at Soho Square. Barwick's first task when he takes up his £275,000-a-year post on 31 January, will be to convince doubters on the board that he is his own man. That may be tough.

Some board members already feel that Dein, a long-time associate of Barwick, is empire-building, with one eye on the FA chairman's job when Thompson departs, perhaps soon. Barwick also has other friends established inside Soho Square, including executive director David Davies, and the director of development, Sir Trevor Brooking.

Such breadth of support, of course, can and will be used as evidence that Barwick has excellent contacts and an appeal across large parts of the game. And, much as it will pain the modernisers of the professional game, Barwick was already networking as chief executive-elect before he had been appointed.

One key figure he visited was Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, who said yesterday he looked forward to working with Barwick.

"We hope on all player matters we will have proper discussion beforehand and work together, rather than [the FA] suddenly unilaterally acting in haste and repenting at leisure," Taylor said. "That was the only reason I was upset with Mark [Palios], he promised to discuss such issues with us before dealing with them arbitrarily."

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