London: A bleak day for English football ended with 2018 World Cup bid badly damaged, the FA in chaos and chairman David Triesman forced to resign after a newspaper sting in which he is taped claiming a Spanish bribery conspiracy.
Triesman, who on Friday stood beaming next to the nation`s golden boy David Beckham as England`s glossy 2018 bid brochure was presented to FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in Zurich, was left with no option but to quit as chairman of the FA and the World Cup bid, after being snared by what he described as entrapment.
The 66-year-old enjoyed the company of Prince William at the FA Cup final on Saturday, but a few hours later discovered his name splashed over the front page of the Mail on Sunday and his career as a football administrator in ruins.
In extracts of a secretly recorded private chat with Melissa Jacobs, a former aide from his time as a government minister, Triesman reportedly claims that Spain and Russia, rival bidders for the 2018 World Cup, were conspiring to bribe referees at next month`s finals in South Africa.
Grovelling letters of apology were sent by England 2018 team to their Spanish and Russian counterparts as well as governing body FIFA as bid chiefs attempted to limit the damage to a campaign that on Friday seemed firmly back on track after some high-profile difficulties in the past.
In a statement Triesman, who was seen as a safe pair of hands for an accident-prone organisation when he became the FA`s first independent chairman, confirmed he had resigned after little more than two years in the post.
"A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge and passed to a national newspaper," Triesman said in a statement issued by the FA after a hastily convened Board meeting at Wembley on Sunday.
"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 both for my family and me but it leaves me with no alternative but to resign."
Geoff Thompson, a former FA chairman, was named as the new chairman of England`s 2018 bid team late on Sunday in a bid to keep the damage caused by Triesman`s comments to a minimum.
While Triesman`s opinions on Chelsea`s John Terry, stripped of the England captaincy after his own tabloid scandal, were quite harmless, his shocking claims, albeit private ones, about Spain and Russia made his position untenable.
Triesman appears to suggest that Spain would consider dropping out of the race to host the 2018 World Cup to boost Russia`s bid chances if the Russians, who failed to qualify for next month`s finals, helped bribe referees.
"I think the Africans we are doing very well with," Triesman is reported to have said in the most damaging chunk of the extracts. "I think we`re doing kind of well with some of the Asians. Probably doing well with Central and North America."
"My assumption is that the Latin Americans, although they`ve not said so, will vote for Spain. And if Spain drop out, because Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia."
The FA said it had accepted Triesman`s resignation and moved quickly to fill the vacuum, appointing David Sheepshanks and Roger Burden as joint acting chairmen.
Britain`s newly-appointed Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said Triesman`s decision to resign was correct. He said the strength of England`s bid to host the World Cup for the first time since winning it on home soil in 1966 meant it could emerge from the mess relatively unscathed.
"It`s sad for him personally but is absolutely the right decision to take," he said. "Our top priority as a new government is to win this bid for the country and I am delighted they have acted quickly and decisively.”
"It`s certainly not good news. However, you have to remember that these things do blow over and once that happens the fundamental strengths of the bid are still there."
England`s 2018 World Cup team distanced themselves from Triesman`s slip of the tongue, strongly stating that his alleged comments in no way represented their own views.
While Spanish officials remained silent, Russia responded to having their reputation soiled by calling on FIFA`s ethical commission to deal with the situation.
"From the very beginning we`ve been committed to maintaining the ethical norms and the principles of fair play in our World Cup campaign," Alexei Sorokin said.
"I don`t know why there are so many rumours regarding Russia`s World Cup bid. Maybe because we`re moving in the right direction and our rivals see us as a major force and try to derail our bid campaign."