The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
David Davies, a former executive director of the FA, is in the press today with a bombshell claim that the FA was offered FIFA executive committee votes in exchange for cash during England’s failed bid to host the 2006 World Cup. According to Davies, “an individual well-connected in footballing circles” made the offer over the phone to Adam Crozier, then the chief executive of the FA, and the FA indignantly refused it as an affront to the honor of English football.
A bribe. An irregular payment. A sweetener. Call it what you like. Those of us at the FA who heard this corrupt proposal were shocked….
That would never be the FA’s way. Some countries could take short cuts, could walk in the sport’s shadows. Not us.
Also according to Davies, being accused of sexual harassment by his personal assistant who was also sleeping with England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson and FA boss Mark Palios and later did a stint on Celebrity Big Brother was really hard to take!
From the moment Faria made her poisonous claim in October 2004 after quitting Soho Square, nightmares stalked my sleep. I’d wake suddenly, shaking and sweating.
But when did the nightmare ever really end? All night, all day it went on. While I waited the eight long months for the employment tribunal that could clear my name, doubts assailed me constantly.
What these quotes have in common is that they both come from Davies’s new book, FA Confidential: Sex, Drugs, and Penalties: The Inside Story of English Football. Davies has been flogging his double-subtitled creation by publishing lengthy excerpts in the Daily Mail, and these highly caffeinated vignettes (“Rio Ate My Wife’s Cake”), full of Major Action Verbs (“assailed”) erupting out of the bland abstract nouns most conventionally associated with them (“doubts”), suggest nothing so much as the atmosphere of the conference room in which Davies first learned from his publisher and his ghostwriter precisely what sells copies of football memoirs in England.
It helps, in that endeavor, to throw in one bit of irresistible scandal to spice up the numbing alternations of the word “sex” and celebrated names, and it seems to have been in this spirit that Davies suddenly brought to mind a bit of years-old trivia that, by the way, probably ought to bring down the entire cabal that governs international football.
It won’t, of course, and Davies knows it won’t, and he doesn’t want it to: otherwise he might have gone public with the news at the time it happened rather than waiting to leak it as part of the advance press package for his book. He also might have been less savvy about molding the revelation to a story that’s detailed enough to be plausible but also greasy with ambiguity: an overheard phone call; an anonymous villain (who, Davies is quick to point out, was not on the FIFA executive committee, despite claiming to control some of its votes); an administrator, no stranger to scandal himself, no longer with the FA.
If the English FA was in fact offered the chance to buy votes from the FIFA executive committee, Davies (and the FA) should name the middleman, make the accusation seriously and soberly, and push for an independent, transparent investigation. Don’t mistake this for me caring, David, but using the news to win a day of headlines and smarten up the pre-orders for your tarted-up memoir is not the most credible strategy. In fact, your whole genial oh-look-I-remembered-a-scandal approach to exposing corruption is probably worse than keeping it a secret, since it makes corruption in football seem inconsequential and normal. And that’s basically how we all see it anyway: an ephemeral dull spot in the headlines, something that’s always anonymous, something we’re too used to to want to fix.
So tell us this, David, at least, since you have football’s best interest at heart: who was it you heard on the phone call? And why would that person be someone you’d want to protect?
by Brian Phillips · October 2, 2008