Three steps to succeeding at the FA

Last year’s Accountancy Age Personality of the Year award winner Alex Horne is moving back to the Football Association, where he was once finance director, to become chief operating officer.

Currently the MD that turned around things at Wembley Stadium, Horne is a braver man than I for taking on a top job at the FA. The history of football’s ruling body is littered with the battered and wounded careers of others who have tried to exert some authority in what is clearly one of the most high profile and challenging environments for an executive to work in.

Here’s a potted history. Adam Crozier, a marketing guru, went after intense criticism of the out-of-control spending on Wembley Stadium. Mark Palios had to leave after becoming embroiled in a sex scadal with secretary Fair Alam, who had also had an affair with the then England manager Sven Goran Erikson. Brian Barwick, current CEO, is on notice after falling foul of chairman Lord Triesman and going through the controversy that followed his appointment of Steve McClaren as England manager.

From this we can discern some important advice for anyone taking on a senior role at the FA, especially as Horne is being touted as being among the most influential people now ensconced at Soho Square.

Firstly, consider carefully whether the people you are appointing are qualified for the job. Make sure you stay on budget. Lastly, keep you trousers on.

Actually, there is something else you have to do for a successful time at the FA. Win something. That might be a tournament, or it could be success at winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup.

My guess is that Horne is more than able to avoid the pitfalls of predecessors. The bigger question will be whether he is able to lead the team to a win. The new job is arguably more high profile than anything he has done so far, there will be more press attention than ever before. What will be crucial is keeping a single minded focus on the job.

Given the bear pit that is UK football administration, he will need to draw on all his experience and skill to keep things working. You’ve got to wish him luck.

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