Inside Lines: High-flying Heather set to bring touch of diversity to FA


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The Independent Online

The FA are on the brink of appointing their first lady of football. The former Millwall chairman Heather Rabbatts is a leading contender to become one of two new independent directors, a revolutionary move, which will appease the Government's demand for more diversity in the ruling body as she is also black.

I understand the Jamaican-born Rabbatts is on a shortlist that has been whittled down from over 350 applicants and will be interviewed next week together with another black candidate, ex-Celtic and Chelsea star Paul Elliott, who has been heavily involved with the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign. An announcement is expected before Christmas. High-flyer Rabbatts, 56, barrister, broadcaster, film-maker, former BBC governor, Lambeth Council chief executive and head of education programmes at Channel 4, is one of the nation's most prominent female powerbrokers. During her four-year tenure at Millwall she proved something of a tigress in the Lions' Den. "My track record has always been about pushing back the boundaries and that's what excites me," Rabbatts has said. There would be some irony in her appointment as she is married to the former London 2012 bid communications chief and Uefa spokesman Mike Lee, the PR mastermind behind Qatar's controversial acquisition of the 2022 World Cup, who has been highly critical of England's failed 2018 campaign.

Don't cross Chris

Redoubtable Ironwoman Chrissie Wellington did not spare the blushes of nearby BBC sports chief Roger Mosey at last week's Sports Journalists' Association awards, confirming her decision to boycott the forthcoming SPOTYs because of the short list which lacked any female or disability athlete nomination. Receiving her trophy for the year's outstanding performance in winning her fourth world record-breaking title she decla-red: "I'm making a personal stand. It would be hypocritical of me to criticise the process and then go. Awards are not about seeing my name up in lights. They should be an opportunity for women to get the credit they deserve." Mosey's mumbled response was "I didn't write the shortlist," though he has supervised that for the BBC Young Sports Personality award, which sport's sisters will be pleased to learn features three young women, with teenage Paralympic swimming star Ellie Simmons favourite.

Decisions, decisions

The good, the bad and the bent decisions have long been the bane of boxing where the loudest wail is: "We wuz robbed." Londoner Dereck Chisora certainly was in Helsinki when Finland's Robert Helenius won a European heavyweight title fight with a verdict that was distinctly dodgy. Next Brit abroad to risk the sometimes questionable objectivity of the home-town town three-man ringside jury is Carl Froch, who on Saturday ventures into Atlantic City where next Saturday he encounters unbeaten Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward, with his WBC super-middleweight title, and Ward's WBA belt at stake. Should it go the distance he must hope those scorecards are not already marked.

That's entertainment?

Apparently the order to lob in another £41 million, doubling 2012's ceremonies budget, came direct from Downing Street after the Prime Minister David Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had been given sneak previews of what organisers are planning. Did they really think it wasn't up to scratch, or that recruiting 10,000 more dancers to prance around like Billy Elliott would really boost Britain's image abroad more than Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon?

Smell of failure

Despite getting the heave-ho from the Champions' League, the good news for the two Manchester clubs is that they have been offered joint sponsorship of a new fragrance for Christmas: Channel No 5.