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The FA meet to discuss Watmore's resignation

Tue 23rd Mar 2010 | Football Governance

The surprise resignation of the Football Association’s Chief Executive, Ian Watmore has prompted an emergency meeting at noon today by the members of the board.

After just nine months in charge, Watmore’s resignation came after it emerged that he was growing increasingly frustrated with his proposals being thwarted. Rumours of a rift with Premier League Chairman, Sir Dave Richards over the blocking of many of his proposals may have prompted his resignation.

Watmore had planned to restore some of the power that had been eroded from the FA and felt that the Premier League had too much of a say on football affairs in England. His position became untenable and he has left to conclude that English football was ungovernable — at least from the office of a chief executive who, to borrow the phrase he has uttered to associates, “wasn’t chief and wasn’t executive”.

When Andy Burnham, then the culture secretary, asked the football authorities in 2008 to "reassess their relationship with money" and asked for a response to seven significant questions, the FA's was in effect an admission that it had no power. It was a brief document, which wholly referred the government to the responses of the Premier League and Football League.

Interpreted as a "cry for help" by FA and government insiders, it was a statement by the FA's first independent chairman, Lord Triesman, that he had no independence from the professional game. The line being used about Watmore last night, the chief executive who worked closely with Triesman in government, that he could not stomach being neither a chief nor an executive, makes the same case.

The truth about the FA's response is that Watmore and Triesman had worked diligently to produce a detailed response for the government, about how the FA could rise to the challenge of financially regulating a game in which the controls lag years behind the amounts of money washing around. The proposals went up to the board and were crushed. The professional representatives argued there had been insufficient consultation – with them – and the national game board members opted out, deciding it had nothing to do with them. Triesman scrapped the ideas and sent his unsubtle surrender message instead.

Within the last two weeks, insiders say, Watmore proposed again a more robust role for the FA in financially regulating the flagship clubs, and was again shot down. That is not the role which the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, chairman Sir Dave Richards or the club owners have in mind for the FA.

So, in the time of arguably greatest need for a strong governing body for football, there are only vested interests, and Watmore's resignation, said to be due to his frustration at the inability to make any progress, exposes that vacuum.

FA chairman Lord Triesman said he spent the weekend trying to persuade Watmore to withdraw the resignation letter he handed in on Friday. He said: "Ian Watmore tendered his resignation to me on Friday. I asked him to reconsider over the weekend. However, he has confirmed that his position remains unchanged and I have accepted it with great regret."

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