Triesman affair leaves sour taste
Amid all the questions raised by the Lord Triesman affair, there are two interesting issues that need to be cleared up.
The first relates to the way the story came out. Lord Triesman's resignation statement included a reference to the betrayal he felt at being "entrapped" by a friend. Judging by callers to BBC Radio 5 live, the messageboards and the comments on my blog on Sunday, there is considerable anger at what the Mail on Sunday did in publishing a story that has potentially caused significant damage to the England 2018 World Cup bid.
I am told that at least one other newspaper was offered the story and turned it down for that reason.
The story has raised all sorts of interesting questions about when is it legitimate for the media to secretly record conversations and then make them public. Clearly, Lord Triesman's comments were significant and he had no choice but to resign. However, is it right that the private thoughts of leading public figures are then published in this way?
Even more interesting is how the story came about and, crucially, who was behind the sting.
One theory is that a friend of Melissa Jacobs was in talks with another Sunday newspaper to sell a story about her relationship with Lord Triesman.
At that point, and in an effort to take control of the story, Miss Jacobs contacted the public relations consultant Max Clifford. He advised her to sell the story to the Mail on Sunday, which then helped set up the sting.
But according to Football Association sources, the Mail on Sunday originally told 2018 officials that they did not co-ordinate the covert recording of the conversation and photographs at the Paul cafe in Marylebone High Street. They say the paper claimed Miss Jacobs had turned up with the whole package and sold it to them.
That would be extremely unusual for a newspaper and is denied by Clifford. Why might the Mail on Sunday claim otherwise? To try to distance them from any accusations they were deliberately damaging the bid? Well, the damage is done by its very publication and not necessarily the method of obtaining the information.
Lord Triesman's final public appearance as FA chairman was at Saturday's FA Cup final. Photo: Reuters.
Some conspiracy theorists might believe that a rival bidder may have been behind the set-up. Or even an FA enemy. That seems very far-fetched but it certainly poses a very interesting question.
Regardless of who was behind it, Miss Jacobs is understood to have made between £75,000 and £100,000 for selling her story. And Sunday's revelations are unlikely to be the end of it. Having had such an impact, there will be a clamour for her to reveal more of Lord Triesman's innermost thoughts about FA colleagues and England's players - recorded or not.
The 2018 bid team and the FA knew this and will have almost certainly prompted the swift action. The FA has clearly learned from the experience of the Faria Alam scandal when the FA at first attempted a cover-up and then limped on for days as revelations of the secretary's affairs with then England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and former chief executive Mark Palios spilled out. By removing Lord Triesman they cannot be damaged by the publication of further private details of his conversation with Miss Jacobs.
The second issue to quickly reflect on is what sort of legacy does Lord Triesman leave the FA?
In his statement on Sunday he talked about his pride at achieving "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".
He indeed deserves credit for helping see through changes in the make up of the FA council.
England's qualification for South Africa also happened on his watch but manager Fabio Capello might raise an eyebrow at Lord Triesman's inclusion of the World Cup on his list of achievements.
When all is said and done, the only measure by which we can assess Lord Triesman's two and a half years in charge is on whether he lived up to a promise as the FA's first independent chairman to bring stability and consensus to an organisation that all too often becomes paralysed by infighting. He was also supposed to give the FA a more powerful voice and to help it stand up to the Premier League.
On one hand, he did that. He fought the FA's corner and gave the organisation confidence. He led from the front and earned a lot of praise for taking on the Premier League, particularly on the key issue of clubs' debt levels.
But on the other hand, by being so aggressive he effectively wrecked any hopes of reaching a consensus with the League, thereby making chances of progress or significant reform impossible.
That is not to say the League and professional game were right to just circle the wagons and isolate Lord Triesman, it is simply a reflection on how the FA works. As a politician he was always regarded with suspicion by people who have spent a lifetime working in football.
He quickly found that if you cannot make deals you become ineffective. And, charming man though he is, that is probably how his time at the FA will come to be remembered.
Another interesting aside to report - Lord Triesman was due to attend a meeting of the International FA board (the body which oversees the laws of football) in Zurich on Tuesday. Also due to be in attendance was Angel Maria Villar Llona - chair of Fifa's refereeing committee and president of the Spanish FA.
Things might have been a bit awkward given Lord Triesman's remarks about the Spanish trying to bribe referees at this summer's World Cup.