Sheepshanks in line for top FA job

DAVID Sheepshanks’ diverse background in football administration could finally put him in pole position for the vacant top job at the Football Association.

The former Ipswich Town chairman, alongside fellow FA board member Roger Burden, was drafted in as acting joint-chairman of English football’s governing body on Sunday night following the dramatic resignation of Lord Triesman.

Numerous candidates have now emerged for what is one of the most powerful positions in English football. However, Sheepshanks – who was overlooked for the role in 1999 and 2008 – might finally find that his patience has paid off.

That’s because, while each of Triesman’s potential successors are all of a high calibre, Suffolk-raised Sheepshanks now boasts one of the broadest CVs in football administration.

The 57-year-old spent a rollercoaster 13 years as chairman at Portman Road, during which time he oversaw promotion to the Premier League, two seasons in the UEFA Cup, relegation back to the second tier and a period of voluntary administration.

In addition, he has long been a loyal and valued board member of the Football Association, spent a highly successful 18 months as chairman of the Football League in the late ’90s and more recently took charge of the proposed development of a National Football Centre at Burton-on-Trent. Effectively, it means Sheepshanks now has administration experience at virtually every level of the game, from grassroots – an area the FA is particularly keen to focus on in the near future – to the top echelons of club and international football. Just as importantly, he has experience of dealing with both the highs and the lows of the game.

In contrast to Sheepshanks, the other chief contenders for the job have rather more specialised backgrounds when it comes to football. Roger Burden is a grassroots expert, having represented Gloucestershire on the FA Council for the past 12 years; the bulk of Brian Mawhinney’s experience has come in the Football League, while former Tottenham chairman Sir Alan Sugar – who yesterday put himself in the running for the role – hasn’t been involved in football since selling the majority of his shares in Tottenham Hotspur in 2001.

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Meanwhile, Geoff Thompson has taken on the vacant position as chairman of England’s World Cup 2018 bid team and is unlikely to retake on his former role as FA chairman as well, while Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards appears to be out of the running.

Former Sheffield Wednesday chairman Richards had looked the favourite to succeed Lord

Triesman following his resignation, but it is now thought that Sheepshanks’ diplomacy skills saw him favoured to the more straight-talking Yorkshireman when it came to appointing the acting chairmen.

Lord Triesman became the first ‘independent’ FA chairman in 2008 as the governing body sought to appoint from outside the football hierarchy. That would mean that Sheepshanks would have to relinquish his 23 year association with his beloved Ipswich Town should he be offered the FA’s top job, although that is unlikely to prove a stumbling block as he now holds just a non-executive role at the club following Marcus Evans’ takeover in 2008. This is, however, likely to put FA board members Phil Gartside (Bolton chairman) and David Gill (Manchester United chief executive) out of the running.

Vice-chairman Barry Bright will now chair The FA’s Annual General Meeting tomorrow as board members discuss the best way forward.

FA Chairman - the main candidates

David Sheepshanks

One of English football’s longest serving and well-liked administrators. First elected to the Ipswich Town board in 1987 and, despite standing down as chairman in 2008 following the takeover by Marcus Evans, he retains an unpaid non-executive role. A former Football League chairman, Sheepshanks is a loyal member of the FA board and is currently chairman of the proposed National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent. Like Prince William, the president of the FA, he is an Old Etonian. Having devoted the vast majority of his career to football administration, other interests include Suffolk Food Ltd.

Brian Mawhinney

Belfast-born, the 69-year-old recently stepped down as Football League chairman after seven generally successful years. The deeply religious Christian also previously served on the FA board. Mawhinney’s career has been dominated by politics though. A former Conservative cabinet minister who spent two years as party chairman and was Shadow Home Secretary under William Hague.

Roger Burden

Appointed acting FA chairman alongside David Sheepshanks on Sunday. Has huge experience working in the grassroots of English football, having represented Gloucestershire on the FA Council for the past 12 years. Was chief executive and chairman of Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Sir Dave Richards

Current chairman of the Premier League, UEFA’s Professional Football Committee and a member of the FA board, it came as some surprise that Richards wasn’t named as one of the joint acting chairman of the FA following Triesman’s resignation. The Yorkshireman was chairman at Sheffield Wednesday from 1989 to 1999, during which time he insisted on being called ‘Mr Chairman’. Also chairman of the Football Foundation from 2003 to 2008, Richards was knighted for his services to sport in 2006.

Geoff Thompson

Has already been chairman of the FA once, beating Sheepshanks to the role in 1999 and holding it for the best part of a decade until Lord Triesman took over in 2008. Another Yorkshireman, Thompson has previously been general manager of Doncaster Rovers and held senior positions in the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA. Unlikely to return as FA chairman as he has already been named as Triesman’s successor to England’s 2018 World Cup bid team.

Sir Alan Sugar

The high-profile 53-year-old declared his interest in the role yesterday, but admitted he has had no contact from the FA yet. Coming from relatively humble beginnings in East London, Sugar has become a highly successful entrepreneur, media personality and political advisor. Ranked 59th in last year’s Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of �830m, Sugar sold computer company Amstrad in 2007 and has starred in television series The Apprentice. Was chairman of Tottenham Hotspur from 1991 to 2001 where he was often criticised by fans for his pure business approach. Described his Spurs experience as ‘a waste of his life’.

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