Premier League chairman Dave Richards had a day to forget at a football conference in Qatar yesterday when his remarks causing consternation at the start — and he ended it by falling face first into a fountain pool.
Richards claimed FIFA and UEFA had “stolen” football from England — comments which the Premier League moved quickly to distance themselves from. He then told the International Sport Security Conference that Qatar must make the sale of beer freely available at the 2022 World Cup or face a boycott by fans.
A bad day for the Yorkshireman got worse when he fell face first into a fountain pool at a hotel in Doha after tripping on a low ledge.
Richards earlier raised eyebrows when he told the conference England had given the world football: “For 50 years, we owned the game, we were the governance of the game. We wrote the rules and designed the pitches.
“Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you’re liars and they actually stole it.
“It was called FIFA. 50 years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more.”
The Premier League, clearly embarrassed by the remarks, issued a statement: “Dave is attending the conference in a private and personal capacity and his comments in no way reflect the views of the Premier League.”
Richards also warned fans may boycott the World Cup in Qatar because beer sales are severely restricted in the country.
“In our country and in Germany, we have a culture,” he said. “We call it, ‘We would like to go for a pint’, and that pint is a pint of beer. It is our culture as much as your culture is not drinking. There has to be a happy medium. If you don’t do something about it, you are starting to bury your head in the sand a little bit because it needs addressing.
“You might be better off saying don’t come. But a World Cup without England, Germany, the Dutch, Danes and Scandinavians. It’s unthinkable.”
Richards, an FA board member, also launched an attack on FIFA over the failed 2018 World Cup bid.
“Why couldn’t FIFA have said, we want to take it to the Gulf, to the eastern bloc? We spent £19m (€22.8m) on that bid.
“When we went for it everybody believed we had a chance. But as we went through it a pattern emerged that suggested maybe we didn’t.”
Richards later apologised for any offence cause and said the comments were intended to be “lighthearted”.
“Further to the comments I made earlier today at a conference in Doha I would like to apologise for any offence caused,” he said.
“I was expressing my personal views and not those of any organisation I represent. My comments on the heritage of the game were intended to be lighthearted. They clearly have not come across in that way and I sincerely regret making them and any resulting negativity that may have been interpreted towards FIFA and UEFA.”
Richards hurt his leg in his fall and had it checked out in a Doha hospital before being released.
Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, who was with Richards at the time, told BBC Sport: “I was on the way to dinner with Dave at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. We were walking across to our table in a dark courtyard area. There were three fountain areas nearby, no pool.
“They had switched off the lights. He thought he was stepping on to flat marble, but his foot went down into the water, he fell over and hurt his leg quite badly. Any suggestions he had a drink is nonsense. It’s a dry place.”
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