Wiseman elected chairman of FA

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The Independent Online
He may not have been the professionals' first choice as chairman of the Football Association. Indeed, he is only vice-chairman of his club, Southampton. But the FA Council voted him in yesterday as its successor to Sir Bert Millichip. Needless to say, Keith Wiseman was a surprise winner from the quartet of four candidates for the most powerful position in English football.

The election went to a third ballot in which Wiseman defeated the "county man" and favourite, Geoff Thompson, by 49 votes to 37. The two men had tied in the second ballot at 36 votes each, which had seen the professional game's preferred candidate, Dave Richards, the Sheffield Wednesday chairman, make an unexpectedly early exit. Sir David Hill-Wood, the fourth contender and chairman of the FA's finance committee, had been eliminated after the first ballot.

Whether the professionals will be whooping with delight at what they might see as a major victory in their battle for greater power within the FA remains to be seen. Coming from a medium-sized professional club, Wiseman sees himself as "somewhere near the middle of the equation" in that balance of power.

The diplomatic air of the genial 51-year-old solicitor, however, may conceal a harder edge than that of his predecessor, Sir Bert - another legal eagle - to whom he is junior by some 31 years.

Wiseman clearly has his sights set on reforming the unwieldy 90-man FA Council which has jealousy guarded its power for the best part of a century. He is under no illusions about what action the professionals might take should they refuse to release some of their executive powers. "A persuading job," is how he reads his role in it.

"For a number of years what needs to be done has been pretty clear," Wiseman said. "It's important that there's a strong executive committee or board able to take a fair proportion of decisions and not perhaps to have to refer too much on to a very much larger body. However, it is also right to say that the FA Council quite properly sees themselves as guardians of certain aspects of the game and they will want to feel satisfied that they are entrusting that power to a body that's appropriately constituted and made up. There is a persuading job to be done, but I don't see it as anything that's impossible to achieve.

"The arrival of the year 2000 in lots of sports does somehow give added impetus to getting these sort of things right. And I'm sure we will be the same."

The millennium coincides with a twofold target for Wiseman: modernisation of the Council's management structure and approval to stage the 2006 World Cup. "The decision on that is made in the year 2000, I believe. Euro 96 has shown that it has the ability to run the very largest and most complex of tournaments and we should try to build on that and host the World Cup again."

Wiseman would have been just as interested in the tennis at Wimbledon as the football at Wembley and elsewhere this summer. An Oxford Blue at tennis, he represented Hampshire in doubles tournaments until he was 38 and he won the county's Open singles title. He relaxes by playing tennis with his wife, Anthea, who has played at Wimbledon and continues to coach.

His election to the role of chairman means that the FA is left with one remaining position to fill amongst its hierarchy, that of technical director which, with the recent appointment of Glenn Hoddle as coach, will now be given some urgency by the FA, according to its chief executive, Graham Kelly.

On the matter of his own position becoming a full-time appointment, Wiseman would only say that he would give it some attention, noting how much the job had changed since Sir Bert assumed the reins 15 years ago. The domestic game is at a crucial stage in its development and Wiseman's role in it will be of paramount importance. He knows that he must bring peace to the bickering factions, otherwise the part-time coroner could find himself presiding over an untimely death.

First ballot: 1 G Thompson 28 votes; 2 K Wiseman 26; 3 D Richards 18; 4 D Hill Wood 13. Second: 1 Thompson 36; 2 Wiseman 36; 3 Richards 14. Third: 1 Wiseman 49; 2 Thompson 37.

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