Five chief executives in ten years is the kind of instability that breeds confused decision-making and lack of direction. For English football, then, it’s not a good thing that the surprise resignation yesterday of Ian Watmore, chief executive of the Football Association, will mean a fifth in ten years will soon be arriving.
The comments on the radio today about this by David Davies, the Football Association’s executive director, are well worth reading:
“I’m very sorry on a personal level because like a lot of people I liked Ian Watmore. But the reality for everybody who cares about football has to face up to is that the FA has lost five chief executives in little more than a decade. Most of them have been victims, and Ian Watmore it seems is just the latest, of the chronic instability that I believe, and have said on several occasions, is inherent in the way our football is run.
“The structure builds in conflict – the FA, the Premier League, the Football League and the other organisations, too – conflict that is hardly surprising given that the game is riven with conflicts of interest. People’s roles and responsibilities are either not defined at all, are blurred, or worse still, set up in competition deliberately with each other.”
Davies was asked if the position had become the most pointless in English football: “Well it shouldn’t be, should it? We’re talking about the governing body of a sport in a nation that is crazy about that sport. But I understand the natural cynicism that people have because over a generation some of us, initially internally and now externally, are pointing out the problems when you have these very powerful organisations who do come together on the FA board.
“The reality is that the personal relationships haven’t been able to withstand the battering that has been inevitable. The other thing is you cannot tell me this morning what the agreed priorities of English football are, nor can I. The problem is there are none. Everybody does their own thing. We cannot go on like this for another generation.”
Personal relationships? The Guardian says these were rocked by Watmore’s insistence on change, met with resistance by Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards: “It is believed that Watmore opposed the slow-moving committee structure of the FA, and believed he was being blocked by Richards and another Premier League representative, including Phil Gartside of Bolton Wanderers, on a number of issues.”
The Times, though, says he was “driven out by enemies within the FA”. The piece paints him as a “football man” who wanted to do the right thing “but who became frustrated at his inability to do that.”
But again, the piece returns to the power of the Premier League as the key frustration Watmore faced in pursuing change: “From the moment the FA gave the green light to the establishment of the Premier League, it has been increasingly weakened over time. The Premier League now holds an awful lot of power on the FA board which doesn’t help when the FA is attempting to implement its own changes to the game. It is not simply a Premier League issue, it is that the professional game as a whole is resistant to a lot of the changes the FA and Watmore in particular have tried to make.”
The Telegraph says that despite his short tenure, Watmore leaves achievements in his wake: “Notably, he pushed through plans for the National Football Centre at Burton, a vital project which had failed to get off the ground under previous regimes. He also secured a number of strong commercial deals, and paved the way for the Women’s Premier League.” (note: there’s already a Women’s Premier League, the Telegraph means the Women’s Super League)
Of course, unnamed sources at the Football Associationare now busy briefing the likes of Harry Harris at ESPN Soccernet claiming all is sweetness and light: “An FA insider told Soccernet: “It is a shame we have lost a decent guy, but there is no big ‘nuclear’ issue here. Some people are trying to make out there are problems with, say, the Premier League. Not at all.
“Relations across the game are in a pretty good state, certainly compared to what they have been in certain situations in the past.”
Right. Five chief executives in a decade suggests it’s a piece of cake for the Football Association.
- Meantime, and not insignificantly in this context, the Premier League is looking forward to a massive £1.4bn windfall from overseas television rights, according to FC Business magazine: “The new deal for 2010-13 has more than doubled from the £625m which was secured in the last rights issue. Premier League officials have assured its member clubs that they will raise the amount each receives from the current £10m to around £23m per season.”
- “The Red Bull way”? Really? More to come on this.
- How Qatar’s World Cup bid will beat the weather.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.