Sheepshanks: Why I stood down

IN a surprise move yesterday, David Sheepshanks ruled himself out of the running for the most prestigious job in football.

However, Sheepshanks insisted that it had “not been a hard decision to make,” when speaking to the EADT during his train journey home last night.

The former Ipswich Town chairman was thought to be extremely keen on landing the role of chairman of the Football Association, but he effectively withdrew his name from the list of possible candidates after yesterday’s FA board meeting.

Sheepshanks had been acting joint chairman of the FA with Roger Burden, following the resignation of Lord Triesman.

But now Burden has been installed as sole acting chairman of the FA pending the appointment of a new independent non-executive chairman.

Old Etonian Sheepshanks confirmed that he had stepped down from his role.

“It was nice to be an acting joint chairman for a short spell, to bring some stability, but it was always going to be best if one person took the job on in this interim period,” explained Sheepshanks.

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“It was not a hard decision for me to make. With two people at the helm, there is always the danger of misinterpretation.

“It was decided at today’s meeting, by everyone, that it would be ideal to have just one acting chairman, and I’m fully behind Roger (Burden).

“I could not have dropped everything to do that role, so it seemed to be the sensible decision for me to stand down and for Roger to carry on,” added Sheepshanks.

Even so, yesterday’s news was surprising, not least because Sheepshanks had always seemed to nurse a strong ambition to become the No. 1 at the FA, having been a previous chairman of the Football League between 1997 and ‘99.

He was Ipswich Town chairman for 14 years, following his appointment in 1995, before standing down last summer to be succeeded by owner Marcus Evans.

And Sheepshanks went on to admit that he could understand why some people might have assumed that he was hell-bent on getting the FA chairman job outright.

“I did stand for the position of chairman about 11 years ago, and nowadays being a more senior member of the board, I suppose it was natural for people to jump to conclusions,” continued Sheepshanks.

“But I must stress that it was never on the cards that I would become chairman today. That was always way off the mark. I never expected anything of the sort.

“We had a very constructive discussion at the Board and concluded together that it was preferable to have one single point of accountability during this interim period, as we focus on this summer’s World Cup and the 2018 bid.

“I did not put myself forward for this sole role, having a number of other business and football commitments, not least leading the very important St George’s Park project.

“I am delighted that Roger is undertaking the Chairmanship in the interim and, together with my colleagues on the Board, I will be offering him my full support whilst we seek a new chairman.”

It had been assumed that yesterday’s board meeting would recommend abandoning the commitment, agreed through the Burns reports three years ago, to have an independent chairman.

And the FA are not ruling out this rule change, which would allow people currently working in football to be appointed.

Sheepshanks is still on the Ipswich Town board, and is chairman of the PLC that owns 12.5% of the club.

New sole acting chairman Burden said: “As a Board, we will now draw breath to define the role and search for a new independent non-executive chairman.

“We will be seeking an individual who has football understanding and who can oversee the broad business of The Football Association.”

Meanwhile, Alex Horne has been appointed as General Secretary of The FA Group, with immediate effect.

He takes up this permanent role as the senior executive of the organisation having been acting CEO since March 2010.

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