The power vacuum at the top of the Football Association remains in place after Peter Littlewood yesterday rejected the chance to succeed Adam Crozier as chief executive.
The New Jersey-based Mars executive is understood to have been upset at the way news of his impending appointment was leaked. This is thought to have exacerbated his concern that the FA board, which brought down Crozier and with whom he would have to work, were not united behind his candidacy.
Littlewood had been recommended to the board by a sub-committee chaired by Geoff Thompson, the reclusive FA chairman, and featuring David Dein (Arsenal), Robert Coar (Blackburn), Peter Heard (Colchester), Ray Kiddell (Norfolk FA) and Roger Burden (Gloucestershire FA).
Even within this group other candidates had backers and the split within the board was deeper. Several, among them the Premiership chairman David Richards, are thought to have preferred Mark Palios, a former professional footballer who moved into accountancy and now heads PricewaterhouseCoopers' UK regeneration team.
Palios, who made 367 League appearances for Tranmere and Crewe between 1973 and 1984, will now be the favourite for the job but he would also have to work with the knowledge that he would have enemies within.
The FA reacted to Littlewood's rejection with a brief, bald statement reading: "The FA's Board is still in discussions regarding the appointment of the FA's new Chief Executive."
The latest embarrassment is no surprise given the lack of leadership within the FA and the self-interest which afflicts many on the board. The current financial problems, internal strife, crumbling morale, and the nature of Crozier's departure had already put off some contenders, with David Moffat, a career sports administrator currently heading the Welsh Rugby Union, declining to be interviewed.
Whoever is eventually appointed will have to accept that the post is an executive position with little executive power. They will find the FA increasingly submits to the Premiership, whose policy is determined by 20 chairmen frequently more concerned with their own clubs than the general health of the game. They will also have to deal with the continuing hooligan problem surrounding the national team, maximise the next television contract despite a falling market, and see the ill-conceived Wembley project through to completion.
For this Littlewood was to have earned £350,000 a year basic, less than Crozier had been paid, but this was not a major problem. As Crozier found, the position's high profile can lead to far more remunerative opportunities if the holder is seen to be a success.
Crozier, having been forced out by the Premiership in October, is now being paid £500,000, plus bonuses and the customary pension and other perks, as chief executive of the Royal Mail.
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