Triesman: No appetite for change
Former Football Association chief Lord Triesman, giving evidence at the opening session of a Parliamentary inquiry into football governance, highlighted the Premier League in general and PL chairman Richards in particular as having too much power over the sport. Triesman, who had been the first independent chairman of the FA, said Richards used implicit threats over the financial power of the Premier League to get his way. The main confrontation came last year when the professional game's representatives blocked the FA sending in a blueprint for change to then culture secretary Andy Burnham. Asked about Richards using bullying tactics, Triesman told the Culture, Media and Sport select committee: "My experience is he will put his point politely in board meetings but discussions outside are extremely aggressive discussions, really aggressive discussions, points are made in a very colourful way. I wouldn't use that language." Asked about claims in a recent book that Richards had threatened to withdraw top-flight clubs from the FA Cup - which he denied to the author saying "b****cks" - Triesman replied: "That has a terrible ring of authenticity." Triesman's remarks are a renewal of old hostilities - even before his resignation last year following a Sunday newspaper sting, he had fallen out with the Premier League after he criticised levels of club debt. Regarding the issue over the FA's document responding to former culture secretary Andy Burnham, Triesman said the Professional Game Board - FA board members representing the clubs plus Richards as Premier League chairman - had already decided to block it and that it took "a maximum of two minutes" before being kicked into touch. Triesman said: "The Professional Game Board is led by the most powerful voice in professional football because that controls such a high proportion of the money that flows through the game. "The point was made by the chairman of the Premier League that this [the FA's submission] should be disregarded from that point on and to simply acknowledge the work done by the Premier League principally and the professional game, and reminding the representatives of the amateur game there where their money came from." Triesman also said that an idea by former FA chief executive Ian Watmore to have a group of advisers drawn from more ethnically-diverse backgrounds, and with more women, was also "dismissed after about two minutes on the grounds that all the talent that was needed was in the room". Triesman added: "There is no appetite for change." Triesman produced a copy of the blocked FA submission and said he would present it as evidence to the inquiry. Sports minister Hugh Robertson last month described football as the "worst-governed sport in the country" and Triesman partly agreed. He added: "In terms of our clubs we obviously have fantastic success with the Premier League, it is an amazing example. "But if we look at England as a country playing international football, the outcomes are very poor. "I don't think they are satisfactory for England football fans and if the minister was asking if we have a good system, then we have systemic failure. "The [FA] board is heavily, deeply conflicted." The MPs also heard evidence from Lord Burns, who carried out an inquiry into FA reforms in 2005, who said his recommendation to have two independent board members had not been carried out because of self-interest among board members from the amateur game, who felt it would be "turkeys voting for Christmas". Burns said the FA should be regulating football, but that the "present board is like the Financial Services Authority having a controlling interest by the banks and I don't think that would be a satisfactory state of affairs to anybody." The committee will take evidence over the next eight weeks with a report due out in the autumn. The Premier League will give evidence towards the end of March.