Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

I'll rescue the FA: Jim Boyce

Jim Boyce

England's standing in world football has rarely been lower, but Jim Boyce has vowed to bring them in from the cold.

The FA was reeling from stinging criticism at the Fifa congress when their attempt to delay the presidential election collapsed in embarrassing fashion.

Uefa tried to convince FA chairman David Bernstein to abandon his postponement plea and when the vote went ahead the Irish FA joined the overwhelming majority of associations - 172 votes to 17 with a further 17 abstentions - in ruling him offside.

Fifa's reputation has been badly damaged by corruption and bribery allegations, but the FA were heavily criticised for questioning Sepp Blatter's authority.

Boyce is now a bridge builder after replacing Englishman Geoff Thompson as Britain's Fifa vice-President and he plans to enhance relations between England and the rest of the worldwide football family as well as within the Home Nations.

"I have a lot of friends at the FA, but the feeling was that David Bernstein should not have done what he did," said the former Irish FA president.

"He received very little support and the challenge now for all of us - and I will relish it - is to rebuild relationships. I will do everything I can to achieve that.

"There are some very good people involved in English football, but there is a perception and feeling of there being a little arrogance there and it's up to them to change those perceptions."

Resentment within Fifa over allegations of corruption levelled in the wake of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process has reached fever pitch - particularly in recent days.

Even though the most serious current charges of bribery, against Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam, came from Fifa executive committee member Chuck Blazer, the English FA and its media, have few friends in the Fifa congress.

"We have to build up relations at Uefa and Fifa," added former Cliftonville chairman Boyce.

"England as a football nation are undoubtedly one of the best nations in the world, there's no doubt about that. I will do all in my power - if asked - to help the English FA.

"With respect to the Home Nations I feel that before a Fifa executive committee meeting, it would be constructive to meet and discuss things that can be mutually beneficial to us."

Uefa had attempted to dissuade Bernstein from proposing a postponement at a meeting early on Wednesday morning, but the FA decided to press on.

"I cannot comment on how the IFA voted, but Patrick Nelson (chief-executive) and Jim Shaw (President) will have attended the Uefa meeting where England were urged not to go ahead with their plans," added Boyce.

"England did not receive the backing of European countries, but went ahead with their plans.

"There was nobody more disappointed than me when England did not win the right to host the World Cup in 2018, but other countries experienced bitter disappointment as well including Australia, America and Spain who are European and World champions."

Meanwhile, there are growing fears that Britain's special Fifa privileges are under threat following the FA's failed attempt to prevent Blatter being re-elected as president.

Boyce added: "There have always been threats around in relation to the privileges such as the British vice-presidency and the International Board and there were more hints yesterday.

"Obviously the British associations are concerned that following those remarks someone may try to take the issue to a future Fifa congress. That's the threat and I hope it doesn't materialise, but we should be aware of it."