INSTALLED AS the Football Association's chief executive in January 2000, Adam Crozier radiated the enthusiasm of a football fan handed a dream chance to work in the game he loved. Impatient to turn football around, he dismissed the suggestion that his job would mean negotiating a political snakepit: "We have to get away from all these divisions," he said. "There is a great deal of unity."
Crozier was put straight very quickly, slapped down by the Premier League and its four representatives on the FA's main board, who, in a startlingly similar rehearsal of this week's drama, complained that Crozier had not consulted them sufficiently before launching his three-year strategic plan. Sharp as a tack, Crozier understood from then that the beautiful game which he has played all his life is, in reality, run by the money and power-brokers of the big clubs.
It is a bitter reflection that his plans, now to be chucked on to the mountainous pile of football's lost opportunities, carried his fresh-faced promise to "use the power of football to create a better future."
His legacy is perhaps not as glittering as the hype claims, but Crozier was without question a progressive force with genuine instincts for the game. And, whatever the dismal detail of how-much- was-said-to-whom- when, which catalysed the battle waiting to happen with the Premier League, there is no doubt Crozier saw the Premiership-stuffed board as a hurdle to be overcome rather than an august body of custodians to consult. That failure to show due respect to directors wearing different hats, and bearing conflicts of interest, ultimately did for Crozier.
Many football lovers remain bemused by the politics infesting the game, and Crozier's departure has to be understood in the context of the natural rivalry between the FA and Premier League. The FA is the overall governing body, rooted in an amateur tradition of moral values, fair play and teamwork. From the 1880s its job has been to regulate, and harness, the inherent commercial self-interest of the professional clubs and leagues for the good of all who play or support the game.
Throughout its history of compromise, the FA has maintained some limited financial regulation of clubs, and the Football League redistributed money to preserve rough equality. Nobody, though, could pretend that the FA's ruling body, the 92-member council, drawn from the amateur county associations, not the professionals, was governing effectively by the time the 70s and 80s crashed into hooliganism, decline and, ultimately, at Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough, disaster.
With reform imperative, the FA then threw away a momentous opportunity, rejecting the Football League's 1990 offer to unite, instead supporting the big First Division clubs' breakaway from sharing money and power in the Football League.
Since 1992, the Premier League's television deals alone have totalled around pounds 2.5bn, to be carved up by only 22, now 20 clubs. Then, crucially, before Crozier arrived, the FA Council was bypassed with the establishment of the new board, staffed by six professional representatives and six from the counties. This was understood at the time to mean that the Premiership clubs had fundamentally gained power in the body supposed to be regulating them .
What this produced, the huge money pouring into a few clubs, with a governing body gradually emasculated, is illustrated nowhere more clearly than in the plush eighth floor of Soho Square itself, where the dismal board games have been played out. Of the Premier League representatives, Crozier finally lost the full backing of David Dein of Arsenal, who made a pounds 22m loss financing last season's Double and whose grandiose stadium plans are pounds 100m over budget. Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds chairman, announced a loss of pounds 33.9m last month. Robert Coar is the chairman of Blackburn Rovers, whose huge annual losses are bankrolled by the estate of the late tax exile, Jack Walker. …