David Bernstein is no stranger to controversy. He was non-executive chairman of French Connection during its “f.c.u.k” ad campaign in 1997, created by the mercurial Trevor Beattie at TBWA and banned from time to time by the Advertising Standards Authority. It was ultimately successful for the clothing label.
Bernstein has also a held a number of roles in the ‘football family’, from chairman of Manchester City, to the boss of Wembley Stadium Limited and now, chairman of the Football Association (the governing body for English football).
It is in his current role that saw him take to the stage in front of 200 FIFA delegates at their congress in Switzerland yesterday. He essentially told them that they were corrupt. And that the leader they so admire, Sepp Blatter, should not be re-elected.
The British press either reported it as our boys ‘knocking sense’ into others, or a foolish crusade that will only ensure the rest of the world likes England even less.
FIFA’s finance man, the Argentine Julio Grondona, 79, didn’t disappoint. When asked about the English bid to hold the 2018 World Cup he said:
“Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote.”
For all his endeavours, Bernstein hardly laid a glove on Blatter, described as a despot by The Sun. The FA’s last-ditch amendment to delay the election was defeated by 172 votes to 17. In football terms that’s a drubbing.
It is Bernstein’s skill as a politician that attracted strongest criticism, The Telegraph accusing him of “stunning naivety”.
In politics, his equivalent would be veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, an old-school socialist and ardent republican. Every year, parliamentarians are invited to the House of Lords to hear the Queen officially ‘open’ parliament. Skinner, however, remains firmly in his Commons seat, making loud jokes at Her Majesty’s expense. In 1992, he roared “tell her to pay her taxes” and in 2006 he quipped, “have you got Helen Mirren on standby?”
Most commentators suggest that Bernstein should persevere, and try to reform FIFA from within. He has probably blown any chance of that. Maybe, he would do well to become FIFA’s answer to Dennis Skinner – sniping from the backbenches, offending royalty, and most of all, showing that he just doesn’t give an f.c.u.k.