By Pete Wilson
17 May 2010
Football supporters’ groups have accused the Mail on Sunday of damaging England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup by printing extracts from a covertly recorded private conversation between Lord Triesman and a former aide, Melissa Jacobs.
Triesman resigned on Sunday after remarks he had made to Jacobs were made public by the MoS. Triesman suggested in the conversation that Russia could help Spain to bribe referees at this summer’s World Cup, and then Spain would drop out of the race for 2018, thereby helping Russia, a key rival to England in the race to stage the tournament.
Fans groups have now expressed “regret” at the resignation of Triesman, and criticised the potential damage to England’s World Cup bid caused by the Mail on Sunday.
In a joint statement, Supporters Direct (SD) and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) called upon all involved to “refocus their energies on protecting and promoting England’s World Cup bid.”
Supporters Direct is the national organisation that promotes supporter ownership and involvement in the governance of professional team spectator sports including football. The Football Supporters’ Federation represents more than 170,000 fans of clubs and national teams at all levels throughout England and Wales.
Both organisations have also called on the new sports minister, Hugh Robertson, to become involved to “ensure the strongest possible candidates are appointed to the FA’s two most important jobs”. Both SD and the FSF praised Lord Triesman’s role as a catalyst for a series of important reforms both at the FA and across the game.
Malcolm Clarke of the FSF said: “The first priority now is to protect and promote the England World Cup 2018 bid. The Mail on Sunday has grievously endangered the bid with the worst sort of journalism. All involved at the Mail should hang their heads in shame. Many football supporters will think long and hard before buying the Daily Mail or The Mail on Sunday.
“It is sad that David felt the need to resign over what he believed was a private conversation with a friend but the fact is that the FA has now lost its chief executive and chairman within a matter of weeks. However this is an opportunity for the FA to reassert its role as English football’s governing body.
“The appointments of both the new chairman and chief executive must be conducted in accordance with the highest, most transparent standards. New appointments will need to command respect at all levels of the game from the grassroots to the professional ranks. The last thing we want to see is a weak appointee who meekly surrenders to any of football’s warring factions.
“Our national game desperately needs strong and independent leadership.”
Dave Boyle, chief executive of Supporters’ Direct, said: “The last time the FA was engulfed in this kind of scandal, we got the Burns review. We don’t need to have the review this time – we just need to see the Burns recommendations implemented in full. With the World Cup bid in process, action is needed to reassure the world that someone is actually in charge of our national game.
“We all know the FA’s governance has been dysfunctional, so its very hard to be full of confidence about how these two critical appointments will be made, so we call on the new sports minister, Hugh Robertson to use his influence to ensure that the composition of the search committee commands confidence and the wider appointment process is open and fair. It goes without saying that we believe supporters should have a say in this process, along with the game’s other stakeholders”
While the MoS story made global headlines, the way in which the paper reported the story has attracted fervent criticism from its own readers, with a huge majority of responses to the story on its own website being critical of what it had done. Many negative comments have been removed.
It is understood that Ms Jacobs – who is in no way related or connected to a porn model of the same name, although this is understood to have caused confusion on some ‘Fleet Street’ picture desks these past two days – went to the MoS after being told that another newspaper was going to run a story about her, and she was advised to get there first.
It appears the MoS has misjudged the public mood, which seems now to be strongly in favour of the 2018 bid. As one recent comment to its story said: “You [the MoS] are an absolute disgrace. This is pathetic news that you choose to peddle to sell papers. How much enjoyment will you spoil, for so many people with your underhand attempts to derail the World Cup bid?”