The woman who could cost England the 2018 World Cup: FA chief quits after ‘mistress’ tapes him accusing Spain and Russia of trying to bribe referees.

The woman who cost Football Association chief Lord Triesman his job is revealed as a flame-haired 37-year-old with an impressive academic background. As the Labour peer reflects on his speedy exit it is not hard to see why a man of 66 might find Melissa Jacobs with her slim physique and ivory skin alluring.

But today, he is doubtless ruing his attraction to a woman who is 29 years his junior after she exposed in embarrassing detail not just the ‘intimacy’ of their relationship, but remarks he made as chairman of the Football Association. For it was two weeks ago that Miss Jacobs, a privately educated economics and biology graduate, met Lord Triesman in a Central London restaurant where he made the highly-damaging allegations. During their hour-long conversation – which was secretly recorded – he made a series of indiscreet claims about the football industry and people in it.

He accused Spain and Russia of planning to bribe referees at this summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa. The married Labour peer’s comments – made to a woman who claims she was having an affair with him – were exposed just two days after he launched England’s 2018 World Cup bid alongside David Beckham. The former Labour minister resigned from his role as head of England’s 2018 World Cup bid as soon as his remarks were made public yesterday morning.By 4.30pm he had been forced to relinquish the FA’s chairmanship too.

England had been one of the favourites to host the tournament in eight years’ time. But Lord Triesman’s astonishing comments threaten to fatally hole the country’s chances of success and led some critics to dub him World Cup Wally. He suggested that Spain may withdraw its bid to host the 2018 World Cup if Russia, which also wants to stage it, helps it to bribe referees in this summer’s tournament. Almost as soon as the peer’s beliefs were revealed yesterday, the FA faxed grovelling letters of apology to the Spanish and the Russian football associations as part of ‘a major damage limitation exercise’. And quite apart from the slurs on those countries’ reputations, the allegation that this summer’s tournament is vulnerable to corruption is likely to turn the world’s footballing body FIFA against England.

Lord Triesman’s comments emerged just over two weeks before the England squad fly out to South Africa and only four weeks before the tournament begins. The new Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, described the remarks as a ‘PR disaster’. Mr Robertson said: ‘It’s entirely right that he should stand down and that the action should have been taken as quickly as is the case. ‘I absolutely understand that people see this as a PR disaster. Indeed, that was my first thought when I got the news. I don’t think anybody should pretend anything else.’

Lord Triesman was parachuted into the FA chairmanship by Gordon Brown’s government as a ‘new broom’ to repair the organisation’s reputation after a string of sex scandals. He took up his post in 2008 after the FA both England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and FA chief executive Mark Palios were revealed to have had affairs with secretary Faria Alam. Lord Triesman made his controversial comments to his former aide Melissa Jacobs, 37, a civil servant.  She claims that she and the 66-year-old peer conducted a six-month affair, which she says she ended after becoming uncomfortable about dating a married man.

Six years ago, he married former BBC executive Lucy Hooberman, now 51. Although Lord Triesman says he and Miss Jacobs were friends who did no more than ‘kiss on the cheek’, she has written a raunchy internet blog in which she praises him as ‘an extremely good kisser’ who ‘loved caressing her body’. She has also kept almost 70 mobile phone text messages from the peer. In one he wrote ‘I need you’, in another he wrote ‘You’re in my thoughts and big Xs’.

In a third text he signed off ‘BKsAO’, which Miss Jacobs says stands for ‘Big Kisses All Over’. Although the pair split up in 2008, they kept in contact and two weeks ago met for a drink at a restaurant in central London. During their hour long conversation – which was secretly recorded – Lord Triesman made a series of indiscreet and highly-damaging allegations about the football industry and people in it. At the very beginning of their conversation he told Miss Jacobs: ‘There’s some evidence that the Spanish football authorities are trying to identify the referees… and pay them.’ He repeated the allegation-while outlining his theory that Russia, who are not in this year’s World Cup finals, plan to bribe officials to favour Spain.

The alleged quid pro quo was that the Spanish FA should then vote for Russia to hold the 2018 tournament. Lord Triesman said: ‘Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia.’
At this point Miss Jacobs asked: ‘Would Russia help with that?’ Lord Triesman: ‘Oh, I think Russia will cut deals.’

The Mail on Sunday, which revealed Lord Triesman’s comments, yesterday reported that the FA tried to block the story’s publication by obtaining an injunction. But the paper said the FA abandoned the attempt after 90 minutes. Miss Jacobs is believed to have cooperated with the newspaper after approaching a number of media organisations with her story via an intermediary. Although the story has sparked popular indignation in Russia, yesterday football experts there said the claims will serve only to strengthen their case to hold the 2018 tournament. Adhering to FIFA’s rule that World Cup bidders should not comment on rival bids, neither the Spanish nor the Russian football associations were yesterday prepared to publicly criticise Lord Triesman.

Prior to yesterday’s revelations, the English and Russian bids had been considered to be two of the favourites.
Announcing his resignation, Lord Triesman said: ‘A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge. ‘That same friend has also chosen to greatly exaggerate the extent of our friendship. In that conversation I commentated on speculation circulating about conspiracies around the world. ‘Those comments were never intended to be taken seriously. Nobody should be under any misapprehension that the FA or 2018 bid board are disrespectful of other nations or FIFA and I regret any such inference that may have been drawn from what has been reported.

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