Match made at Wembley

Is it fate? Alex Horne the Football Association’s former finance director is
now in the chief executive’s chair after the sudden departure of yet another
incumbent. Having served at the FA since 2003 as FD and, at one time, the MD and
saviour of the Wembley Stadium construction project, Horne is acting up in the
post he perhaps should have had years ago. Will he keep it?

What’s happened?

Last week, without warning, Ian Watmore, former head of Andersen Consulting
in the UK, resigned from his post as chief executive of the FA. Once again
football’s governing body seemed to have lost a good man for no good reason. The
FA seems irredeemably careless with its CEOs. After Adam Crozier, who left in
2004, credited with modernising the organisation, the FA’s choice of leaders
have been dogged by mishap.

Mark Palios resigned amid scandal, Brian Barwick, his successor, was pushed
out the door by new chairman Lord Triesman, while Watmore apparently left
exasperated by internal politics.

Alex Horne is now acting CEO, a role he more or less took temporarily after
Palios’ departure.

What happens next?

The FA has said it won’t make a decision on the job until after the South
Africa World Cup this summer. That effectively gives Horne a couple of months to
demonstrate he’s worth backing as a permanent appointment.

Accountancy Age has known about his interest in moving up to the top table
since 2004 (he was identified as one of the countries top financial executives
under 35) when he told us in an interview that a CEO’s role was an appealing

He was brought in by Palios, and promoted to FD, in the process helping the
FA resolve a £30m short-term funding gap. Horne was also there when
the FA was trying to unravel the rows over funding the new Wembley stadium.

Eventually they put him in charge. A business recovery and restructuring
expert who trained with PwC, Horne took the project in hand and sorted it – one
of the few moments in recent FA history when things went well.

And yet, with that obvious success under his belt, the FA decided to ignore
him when looking to replace Barwick. Horne was on the board’s radar and he
wanted the job, though it is believed he was understandably concerned about
internal politics. Somehow their attention was drawn by Watmore. Horne became
chief operations officer.

It seemed a strange decision at the time. Horne could boast of his Wembley
work, he had managed other cash crises and, over the years, had become well
versed in FA political machinations. In terms of his CV, he looked perfect.

The big challenge for the FA now is building a £100m national centre for
football. This is a funding issue – a perfect project for Horne. Although it has
its own board, the FA CEO will be crucial in terms of support.

But, given the unpredictability of FA decision making, it’s anybody’s guess
whether they will back Horne to finally take on the job he has, no doubt, been
waiting for.

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