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England's World Cup bid in turmoil as FA chief quits

England's bid to host football's 2018 World Cup was in turmoil today after its chairman Lord Triesman quit amid claims he accused rival nations of corruption.

Lord Triesman also resigned from his high-profile post as chairman of the Football Association following allegations he made comments about Spain and Russia planning to bribe referees.

England's 2018 bid team faxed apology letters to the Russian and Spanish FAs as it tried to rescue the World Cup bid following the revelations in the Mail on Sunday.

Former FA chairman Geoff Thompson was later named as Lord Triesman's replacement as chief of the bid. Business leaders last week estimated the UK economy would get a £3.2 billion boost if it hosted the tournament

In a statement released through the FA, the peer announced his resignation and said he had been a victim of entrapment.

He said: "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."

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The 66-year-old former government minister's departure comes less than a month before England's players fly out to South Africa.

He suggested that Spain may withdraw its bid to stage the 2018 finals if Russia, which also wants to host the event, helps it to bribe referees in next month's tournament, the paper reported.

Lord Triesman made the corruption claims to Melissa Jacobs, a civil servant he employed as a private secretary when he was a minister at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The comments were made in a private conversation taped without his knowledge.

Responding to the claims, Lord Triesman's statement added: "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.

"I have immediately informed the FA board of my decision.

"I have enjoyed hugely my time at the FA and the bid and feel I accomplished a great deal in areas I love - qualification for the World Cup in South Africa, healthy growth in grass roots, women's and disability football, and changes in the representation of fans who are the lifeblood of English football and the involvement of our diverse communities.

"The 2018 Fifa World Cup Bid has made enormous progress both around the world and in the technical bid in England. I wish everyone associated with FA all the very best for what is a very exciting future for the game we all love."

Barry Bright, who will take on the role of acting chairman of the FA council and will chair this week's AGM, expressed "considerable regret at the circumstances of his departure".

New Sports Minister Hugh Robertson told Sky Sports News: "It's entirely right that he should stand down and that the action should have been taken as quickly as is the case," he told Sky Sports News.

The chief of Russia's bid, Aleksey Sorokin, called for football's governing body to "take appropriate measures".

England, Russia, joint Spanish-Portuguese and Dutch-Belgian bids, Australia and the United States are the countries in contention for the World Cup.

The revelations came days after Lord Triesman and David Beckham formally presented England's 1,752-page bid book to Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, football's world governing body.

Former firebrand's mission to clean up football

Even before his high-profile resignation, Lord Triesman was no stranger to controversy.

During his two-year stint at the Football Association, he took on the might of the Premier League and faced resignations by two chief executives.

But when the Spurs fan entered the complex world of football there were hopes he could put his political experience to good use.

The former student radical, who used to belong to the Communist Party, became a Labour minister and peer before taking on his role at the helm of the FA.

Combining a passion for football with a willingness to stand up and be counted, he was seen as the man who could provide decisive leadership which the sport needed as it emerged from a series of scandals.

Colleagues hailed his appointment as the FA's first independent chairman in January 2008.

Chief executive Brian Barwick - who left his post seven months later - said: "His experience on politics, business and sport, allied with his knowledge and passion for the game will be of enormous value to the organisation."

Lord Triesman, 66, quickly set to work on the organisation's four-year vision to develop the sport in England and ensure its future success.

But within months, he clashed with the Premier League by criticising club debts.

Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge in October 2008, he revealed the game was £3 billion in the red and needed a radical review to stop it spiralling out of control.

Richard Scudamore, Premier League chief executive, defended clubs' financial affairs and hit back at the FA, accusing it of being "one of the most indebted organisations in the world".

Further strain was placed on the FA's relationship with the Premier League a month later when Lord Triesman called on England's top flight to hand over more cash to the rest of the game and for a ban on transfers of players under 18.

Born on October 30 1943 in Tottenham, north London, near his beloved Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane ground, David Maxim Triesman began his political career as a teenager when he joined the Labour Party in 1960.

A decade later the left-winger resigned from the party and joined the Communist Party, remaining a member until 1977 when he went back to his Labour roots.

Educated at Stationers' Company's School, he went on to the University of Essex before gaining an MA in philosophy from King's College, Cambridge.

Lord Triesman, who married Lucy Hooberman in 2004, embarked on a career in higher education and went on to rise through union ranks to become General Secretary of the AUT lecturers' union from 1993 to 2001.

He entered the House of Lords in 2004 and was appointed a government whip the same year.

He occupied ministerial positions in the Foreign Office and Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

But Lord Triesman, an ex-referee and patron of Tottenham's charitable foundation, stepped down from the DIUS when he was named FA chairman.

He later changed his status in the House of Lords to that of a crossbench peer because he said he wanted England's 2018 World Cup bid to be "wholly outside any party politics".

In the end, however, it was not his politics which doomed the Lord Triesman experiment at the FA to failure.


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