I am not going to pass any moral judgment on the grubby Melissa Jacobs, who secretly recorded a private conversation with the now ex-FA independent chairman, in order to make him the ex-FA independent chairman. I’m sure she had her reasons – quite possibly tens of thousands of them. Nor am I going to pass any moral judgment on the Mail on Sunday newspaper, which facilitated that recording and published the results. I’m sure there is some philosophical argument that moral judgment cannot be passed on something without morals. Nor am I going to pass moral judgment on Lord David Triesman, whose comments on World Cup bid rivals may have been made in a private conversation which should have remained a private conversation (see “grubby Melissa Jacobs” above). I’m sure he shouldn’t have made them, even in a private conversation. But I am going to pass moral judgment on the English Premier League, the avaricious, megalomaniac, narcissistic bully boy run by a gumptionless, superannuated clerk. I’m sure “it stinks” will pass for a moral judgment in some circles.
I do not want to hear any more claims from any representative of the Premier League that they give a flying fiddle about the “good” of English football. Because such claims will be lies. This weekend, they made a choice to silence a threatening critic – and cared not one jot if England’s bid to stage the World Cup in 2018 was irreparably damaged as a result. Jacobs and the MoS may have been the tools for the job. But it is difficult to see what interest either has in the success or, more pertinently, the failure of the World Cup bid and, specifically, its chairman. The Premier League, on the other hand, has been “after” Triesman ever since he had the nerve to criticise it and its member clubs back in October 2008 for the mountainous debts they’d collectively run up in pursuit of success, criticism which has proven pertinent and justified by subsequent events.
In the intervening months, there’s been a steady stream of anti-Triesman stories from certain journalists at certain papers. Writing a weekly column for the web-site The Right Result was never a chore at the worst of times. If there threatened to be a paucity of material on any particular week, some stupendously stupid football figure would say or do something stupendously stupid (Premier League chief Richard Scudamore, usually). Or I could always turn to a regular feature called “Trieswatch.” After Triesman had dared to criticise the Premier League in public, there was a regular collection of strategically placed stories in the national media designed to show him in an unflattering light. These ranged from the obvious ones about his communist past and his “New” Labour present, to those which, frankly, were reaching.
A three-week long attempt to blame him for a funding dispute between English and Jamaican FAs which pre-dated Triesman’s time at the FA and which he played some role in solving. Or 300 words as the lead story in a diary column about Triesman winning a raffle prize at an FA function and not returning it immediately – an example of his overbearing self-importance, apparently. There was a depressing familiarity to this. Almost a decade earlier, a bright young moderniser at the FA by the name of Adam Crozier was being rather too successful at putting his organisation at the heart of the English game, making it act as if it ran the game. Before long, there were diary stories and “NIBs” (news in brief stories) dotted about the place, casting aspersions on Crozier’s supposed obsession with style over substance – hardly a rarity in turn-of-the-century Britain – or the FA’s ever-expanding salary costs – an area of expertise for so many of the nation’s professional football clubs, then as now. Read the chapter entitled “Room at the Top” in David Conn’s 2005 book “The Beautiful Game” for the detailed story of the tears all this ended in for the thrusting Crozier and his outlandish idea that the FA might be the English game’s governing body.
So it is that David Triesman has met his end. There may have been little to his credit in the situation in which he found himself with Jacobs. But that isn’t why his resignation was forced. It was because he dared criticise the Premier League and dared to challenge its arrogant assumption that it runs, or at least should run, the English game. The Premier League was formed to hog the money. It allows fractions of it to trickle down only if other leagues comply with its deliberately minimal and ineffective regulatory measures. It even wants to run an England team for which most of its players are ineligible and for which any English player in any league is eligible. And should anyone be seen to stand in the way of this, they are to be removed. Briefed against, smeared, tainted. Even, it seems, entrapped. With grubby media accomplices prepared to do its grubby work to get a grubby headline.
It is difficult to argue that England staging the 2018 World Cup would not be “good for the game” in this country. But the “good of the game” is of no concern to the Premier League, beyond its capacity to make money for its member clubs. The World Cup bid didn’t do that. Triesman didn’t like that. So both were dispensable. It stinks.