FA panel need fixer to rattle the cages

Last updated at 22:54 24 November 2007

In the week that represented the nadir of a footballing generation with the first failure to qualify for a major tournament since 1994, there emerged a shortlist of people to lead the English game out of the doldrums and into a brave new world.

I say people. Actually, the list comprises all

men. I understand the headhunters entrusted

with finding a new independent chairman of

the Football Association did check with the

FA whether a woman would be acceptable

but interpreted the spluttering down the

phone as a No.

Richard Caborn

So what we have is a group containing

captains of industry who can apparently steer

their way through the corridors of power and

adapt comfortably to the committee life. Oh,

and a Labour peer who was once thrown out

of Essex University.

Baron Triesman of Tottenham at least has a

football background, being a long-standing

Spurs fan.Now 64, then plain David Triesman,

he was once a young

activist who was

suspended after breaking

up a political meeting but

reinstated by Essex after

representation from

fellow students.

Who else? Sir Howard

Davies is a former head of

the CBI and special

adviser to the Exchequer,

Eddie Charlton (no

relation, nor the snooker

player) is a bank director

and Old Etonian, while Niall Fitzgerald is

chairman of Reuters, Irish and says he is a

Manchester United supporter.

Then there is Sir Christopher Gent, the

youngest at 49, a former chief executive of

Vodafone who turned down the chance to run

the 2012 Olympic Games, of whose cost he has

been critical. Sir Terry Leahy is chief executive

of Tesco, the supermarket chain who have

been known to buy up and build on the odd

pitch or patch of grass.

Not on the list is Richard Caborn, the

former sports minister and now the Prime

Minister's World Cup 2018 bid ambassador.

He was apparently invited to apply by the

headhunting firm, Odgers, Ray and

Berndtson, but then bizarrely told his

services were not required by the FA's

selection panel, headed by Lord Mawhinney,

when his name was presented. With his

background in the successful London 2012 bid, Sheffield United-supporting Caborn would

have been a good choice. His specialist

subjects are banging heads together and

getting things done. Perhaps that is why he is

not being considered. Can't have too many

complacent cages being rattled, apple carts

being upset or empires being dismantled.

Actually, the FA need such an approach and

new thinking, incorporating such matters as

innovative and radical coaching methods and

sports psychology on the pitch, to ideas and

people who will challenge them and open any

closed minds within Soho Square off it. The

former FA executive director David Davies, for

example, came up with a good idea that alas

he failed to implement during his 10 years in

office — the Premier League agreeing to a

10-year contract with the FA to implement

measures beneficial to the national team.

Perhaps now there might be the will on both

sides, seeing the country's game declining with

the possible money loss involved, to compromise on such issues as releasing players

and winter breaks ahead of major

tournaments — assuming England qualify.

And in the light of events this week, perhaps

the FA's selection panel might be tempted to

go back to the headhunters to revise that

shortlist to recruit not only just an industrious

money-maker but a fixer with a grasp of the

nuances of the game's politics and economics

who will know how to challenge the FA, the

Premier League and their working practices.

● IT SEEMED an apt summary of where the

English game is — plenty of money but a

leaky vessel — as rainwater found its way in

midweek through the roof of the FA's

£800 million crowning jewel that is Wembley

Stadium. Then again it was difficult to better

the description by Gordon Taylor, chief

executive of the Professional Footballers'

Association, about our football. It was, he said,

'all fur coat and no knickers'.

Rising stars need to have fun

It was pointed out to Sir

David Richards, the Premier

League chairman and FA

board member, as he talked

about the need for better

coaching in this country, that

Croatia seem to do all right

without our infrastructure

and resources. Ah, he said.

But their kids still play in the


Now there will be much

debate in the coming months

about the state of coaching

and academies here. I hope

this experience will be taken

into account by Sir Dave and

his fellow examiners.

A friend of mine has a

nephew good enough, at

nine, to be selected for the

academy of a Premier League

club. After a year, the boy's

mother withdrew him,

worried about his

development as a kid, rather

than a footballer. The lad had

been presented with a sheet

of paper outlining his dietary

regime and informing him he

could no longer play for his

school, junior club or even in

the street with his mates.

Now I understand the need

to develop players properly

from an early age. But can we

please also try to retain the

fun in the game for them, as

well as keeping them in touch

with the real world?

Then we might see more

rounded people rather than

hothouse specimens

encouraged to believe they

are special.

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