LONDON: Premier League chaiman Sir David Richards has sent apologetic emails to world and European football leaders after his astonishing rant in Doha writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Richards, attending a conference in the 2022 World Cup host capital, had accused world federation FIFA and European governing body UEFA of “stealing” football from England. He had also grumbled that awarding the finals to an Islamic country was unfair on northern European football fans who like their beer.
The day then went from bad to worse when Richards slipped and fell into an ornamental pool on his way to a VIP dinner.
Richards, who is also vice-chairman of the Football Association, sought to repair the damage by internet.
He said: “I have sent a private email to the president of FIFA [Sepp Blatter] and one to the president of UEFA [Michel Platini], saying that I never intended to cause any stir. I have also phoned [FIFA general secretary] Jerome Valcke and apologised to him, and to the president.
“I used a word which was probably inappropriate but it is the way I am. It was a comment that another person would probably not have made but I am a little bit broad. I was talking about the heritage of the game.
“England gave the world the game and I am terrifically proud of that, but I also recognise that UEFA and FIFA have done a magnificent job over the years in changing things.”
A fellow conference panelist in Doha was Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the Asian vice-president of FIFA. He sought to further defuse the tension with a statement of his own.
Prince Ali said: “I have a great relationship with the FA and chairman David Bernstein. I have total respect for the FA and English football for their contribution to world football.
“I look forward to working together with the FA to strengthen the partnership and cooperation between the FA and Asia. In my capacity as FIFA vice-president representing Asia, I am proud to be serving the world’s most popular sport, in FIFA as the governing body of football, and globally, for it is a sport for the world.”
Jim Boyce, the Northern Irishman who holds the under-threat British vice-presidency of FIFA, said: “It would have been better if Sir Dave’s remarks had not been made.”
Richards has been chairman of the Premier League since 1999 and is due to stand down in October 2013 when he turns 70. However, the chairman is elected annually in June and although Richards has never been challenged, the damage caused by his outburst may prompt a review among the chairmen of the 20 clubs.
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