Triesman scandal could cost England 2018 World Cup - and £3billion payday
Published 23:00 16/05/10 By Matt Blake
The shell-shocked FA was last night desperately trying to save England’s 2018 World Cup bid after Lord Triesman’s blunder.
Ex-government minister Lord Triesman was forced to resign yesterday as FA chairman after it was reported he had claimed rivals Spain and Russia were conspiring to bribe referees.
The scandal could lose England the 2018 World Cup bid – and a £3billion payday.
The FA immediately issued grovelling apologies to Russia and Spain and to Fifa, world football’s ruling body.
But it is feared both nations could effectively scupper England’s bid if they press for a Fifa inquiry.
Aleksey Sorokin, who head’s Russia’s campaign, said: “The quality of our bid leaves no other alternative for our competitors but to bring up these absurd allegations.”
When asked if Russia would pursue the matter with Fifa, he added: “We haven’t had that discussion.
“We hope Fifa will take appropriate measures itself.”
Spanish officials were stunned by the news of Lord Triesman’s comments.
Spain’s FA secretary general Jorge Perez Arias was more diplomatic, saying: “I don’t believe Lord Triesman has said something like this.
“Mr Triesman and the FA are excellent. We have a superb relationship with them and I just don’t believe what’s being reported. The idea Spain is trying to bribe World Cup referees is of course ridiculous.
“We like to compete and participate fairly and try always to do the best we can. As far as 2018 goes, we’re trying to progress our bid to host the competition with Portugal.”
Yesterday’s bombshell came just two days after Lord Triesman launched England’s confident bid for the World Cup alongside David Beckham. It was praised by Fifa chief Sepp Blatter. Lord Triesman, who was bought into the FA to clean it up after a series of scandals, made the unsubstantiated claims to former aide Melissa Jacobs.
He allegedly said: “My assumption is the Latin Americans, although they’ve not said so, will vote for Spain.
“If Spain drop out, because they are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe referees in the World Cup, their votes may switch to Russia.”
Miss Jacobs, 37, secretly recorded the comments and handed the tape to a Sunday newspaper.
The Labour peer yesterday claimed he had been the victim of entrapment and insisted his comments were humorous and not meant to be taken seriously.
Lord Triesman’s statement desperately tried to distance the FA from the scandal. He said: “A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge and passed to a national newspaper.
“That same friend has also chosen to greatly exaggerate the extent of our friendship. In that conversation I commentated on speculation circulating about conspiracies around the world.
“Those comments were never intended to be taken seriously as indeed is the case with many private conversations. The views expressed were not the views of the 2018 bid board or the FA.
“Nobody should be under any misapprehension that the FA or 2018 bid board are disrespectful of other nations or Fifa and I regret any such inference that may have been drawn from what has been reported. Entrapment, especially by a friend, is an unpleasant experience for me and my family.
“But it leaves me with no alternative but to resign.”
At his home in North London, Lord Triesman refused to answer questions. He said: “I am extremely busy today.”
New Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said Lord Triesman’s decision to resign was “absolutely right”.
He added: “It’s very sad for him on a personal basis but I think it’s entirely the right decision. Clearly the bid is at a crucial stage.”
Lord Triesman is said to have made the comments to Miss Jacobs as they had dinner at a London restaurant two weeks ago. The pair became close after he employed her as a private secretary when he was a Minister at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
The married 66-year-old allegedly sent her a number of affectionate text messages.
During their chat he criticised John Terry, sacked as England skipper after an affair with the ex-girlfriend of teammate Wayne Bridge.
Lord Triesman said: “I thought it was bad behaviour and very disruptive to the team. The rest of the players pretty much felt that.”
And he allegedly claimed a Latin American football representative wanted a knighthood in return for his support for England’s 2018 bid.
Lord Triesman, a friend of Tony Blair, became FA chairman in January 2008. He said then: “Football can be a great ambassador for the world of sport and the best social values sport can inspire – learning, health, social inclusion and decent personal behaviour.”