Books Special: David Davies on FA Confidential

It seems the FA is too busy with sex, drugs and penalties to worry about corporate governance...

David Davies may not sound like your typical manager – he got a politics degree, trained as a teacher and spent 22 years at the BBC before joining the FA and eventually becoming its executive director. But then, few would describe the FA as a typical organisation. ‘You quickly learn what it is like to manage in a goldfish bowl,’ he says of his time at the helm. ‘We went through an extraordinary three-week period where there wasn’t a day without the photographers outside. People say it must be amazing to never have a dull day. But we used to have an expression at the FA: ‘Dull is good’. You can’t describe what that’s like, managing under siege.’

The three-week period to which he refers came back in 2004, when Davies found himself with a starring role in the ‘Fariagate’ scandal. When news emerged that his PA Faria Alam had been involved in a love triangle with England boss Sven Goran Eriksson and the FA chief executive Mark Palios, Alam tagged on a sexual discrimination allegation against Davies too. Davies was cleared, but the fall-out lasted 11 months. ‘I call football the world soap opera,’ he says. ‘Perhaps I appeared in rather too many episodes.’

Davies clearly thinks that running the FA isn’t the easiest job in the world – not least because the nature of the game plays havoc with those who come from a background of charts and figures. ‘There’s a view that you can bring the business practices you’ve used in your career into sport, and you’ll win,’ he says. ‘You do what the Harvard Business Review has taught you, and the ball hits the post and goes out instead of in. Alan Sugar is a reasonably successful business person, but I heard him say that his tenure at Tottenham wasn’t the most successful period of his life.’

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