Have Triesman’s tribulations damaged England and the FA beyond repair?
By Tony Appleton
With around a month to go before the start of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa; the unavoidable cue for national euphoria, hope and belief to start whipping itself up into the uncontrollable all conquering frenzy that appears every 4th summer, have England’s preparations for near and distant future tournaments been derailed by scandal, deceit and accusations that are completely self inflicted?
Over the weekend, Lord Triesman, the head of the FA and chairman of England’s bid to host the available 2018 World Cup, stood down from both positions with immediate effect. He believed, correctly, that his positions had became untenable after the Mail on Sunday published a transcript of a tape, recording him suggesting that Spain would withdraw their rival bid if their counterparts from Russia would help to bribe officials during the upcoming competition.
As an England fan, I am perplexed by the whole situation, and struggle to understand the point behind each of the key sub-plots within the overall story. Taking Lord Triesman first, is it too much to ask that a person with such a wealth of experience within English football’s governing body, a man who is highly respected within the game, should keep such opinions to himself? I understand that as a regular fan, like the millions of other people who will tune into as many games as possible during the World Cup and not just England’s, I will never get to know every single detail that goes on in Soho Square. Frankly I don’t want to, and I don’t need to. What I do know, however, is that along with the successful bid that will bring the Olympics to this country, the World Cup in England is something that will bring a lot of good to a currently struggling nation. Anything that threatens to harm the bid should be avoided at all costs. Of course he didn’t know he was being recorded, but why utter such a damming, dangerous statement in the first place?
What also surprises me is the connection of both accused countries to the upcoming tournament. Spain are everybody’s favourites to add global glory to their European stronghold; why would they choose to try and bribe officials when they are the most talented team there and should stroll to the semi finals before encountering a particularly difficult game? Russia’s footballers won’t even take part in the tournament, and their FA will be all too aware that any evidence of underhand tactics of such magnitude will severely jeopardise their bid or, worse, their participation in future tournaments. To date, the Spanish and Russian FA’s have yet to officially comment, but privately they must be enjoying good old England’s high profile shot in the foot as the December decision by FIFA as to who will eventually host the World Cup in 2018 draws closer.
Let’s however view this from a slightly different angle. Newspapers and the journalists that work within them are always on the lookout for the big story. The Mail on Sunday, not particularly understood to offer amazing sports coverage, undoubtedly stole a march on their rivals when they received the tape. Surely they must realise that publishing the story is so harmful to the FA’s progress that plenty of fans and officials wouldn’t have wanted to hear this? I’m sure it got the papers sold, but from my admittedly biased England supporting, sporting viewpoint, I would have seriously deliberated whether or not to actually publish the story if I was editor at the Mail on Sunday.
This isn’t the first time an instance like this has happened. Back in 2006, the News of the World printed a story claiming to have undercover conversations with then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson regarding players for the tournament and his future with the English national team. This threatened the team’s preparation for that World Cup, and I believe the Lord Triesman story may do the same. Gary Lineker, ambassador for England’s bid, has since left his position as a columnist for the Mail on Sunday in an apparent stand against the article. Lineker’s belief is similar to mine; newspapers chasing stories are unfortunately risking sporting preparation that affects the country as a whole, not to mention singular persons such as John Terry, golf’s Tiger Woods or snooker’s John Higgins. The balancing act between supporting your country and giving the public interesting, juicy news has unfortunately slipped a little.
Despite the goings on, the FA seem to have acted as swiftly as possible in an attempt to get things back to as much normality as now possible. The resignation of Lord Triesman had to be done quickly, as did faxed apologies to both the Russian and Spanish associations. Former chairman Geoff Thompson has now stepped into Lord Triesman’s shoes, and crucially he has a vote within the 24 members of FIFA that will ultimately decide who hosts the 2018 tournament.
Back in the present, and you can be sure that the media savvy, meticulous and mesmerising Fabio Capello will ensure his troops aren’t affected by the story as they begin training in Austria to acclimatise before two warm up matches against Mexico and Japan. For England fans, this is probably the most important feature of our preparation, and although the bid for 2018 is undoubtedly of great importance, focus on all the good coming out of the England camp is something that I’d like to see the media concentrate on for the next 7 or 8 weeks.
Do you feel that the furore surrounding Lord Triesman will affect England’s chances in this summer’s World Cup? Please leave your comments below.
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