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Aston Villa’s role in failed England 2018 bid revealed

Randy Lerner’s Aston Villa were used as a bargaining chip behind the scenes of the 2018 bid

Aston Villa v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

After the recent release of the ‘Garcia Report’, many readers were surprised to see Aston Villa highlighted in a small corner of the document. What would Villa - a club with a backseat in English football at the time of the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup - have to do with, well, anything? It’s a long story.

The so-called ‘Garcia Report’ represents an inquiry into the different bids for the 2018 Fifa World Cup and has lifted the curtain on the usually behind-the-scenes process. The image that emerges? It’s not really great. The key players in the situation involve Lord David Triesman, the Chair of the England 2018 World Cup Bid & Jack Warner, the FIFA Vice President at the time, and the president of CONCACAF. Warner used his power to pepper the FA with ludicrous requests, knowing full well that their success in the bid would hinge on his power.

Aston Villa’s role in the process can be found on page 103, but the background - involving Jack Warner and a Mr Richard Sebro - span for page upon page before. For two years, Warner requested that the England bid helped out Sebro, the son of Warner’s banker. What follows is a 2009 email, sent from Warner to Lord Triesman, with all the grace of a Mafiosa hitman.

‘Chairman, how are things going re the 2018 Bid? Generally?

I need your help. My banker’s son, Richard Sebro, is presently studying in England and is in dire need of a job of some kind which will be to assist him re the payment of his fees etc. Normally I will not ask the favour of you but the kid used to work with me here in T&T before he left for study overseas and is a tremendous person all round. I really will like to help him and it is therefore under these circumstances I have come to you for assistance. I am quite sure if any hurdles exist which may militate against his immediate employment you will be able to use your best efforts to overcome them and, consequently, I extend my thanks to you for your kindness and understanding re my request’ - The ‘Garcia Report - Page 100

You’ll note that Warner was clearly aware of his influence on the bid - kicking the email off with it. Subtle. Of importance is the line ‘normally I will not ask the favour of you.’ Warner didn’t care to wait for an answer; Sebro’s CV was already attached to the email.

To the Lord’s credit, he didn’t bow to this request instantly. A week later, at the start of June, Warner followed up - copying in two senior members of the bid time.

‘Chairman, once again, I do wish to advise you of my interest in Richard Sebro and the urgent need of some positive assistance for him.’

Jack, ever the gentle touch, affixed an email from him to Sebro saying that Sebro will be hearing from the FA shortly. One of the senior bid exec’s copied in responded minutes later - Sebro would meet at Wembley with the team.

The FA tried to sidestep Warner, but the CONCACAF head caught on. Sebro was offered part-time roles at Tottenham Hotspur - but Warner’s temper flared. This was clearly not good enough, as the following email from July 9th will show.

‘Chairman, I do wish to register my profound disappointment with the FA re its failure to assist Richard Sebro with gainful employment for a protracted period of time as I have kindly requested of the FA. A promise of a few days here and a few days there is not what I had in mind Chairman and then even that has been long in coming. While my disappointment is profound, possibly I should not have been surprised and do wish to advise that if this simple request of mine proves to be a difficulty of any kind to achieve I will understand.’

Let’s be clear - this is a threat. The language Warner used is no accident, not at all. Jack Warner’s surprise that an extremely stretched FA could not find room for a graduate hints at his distate for their actions, but also hints at his reluctance to back them - for they cannot act on ‘simple’ requests. Sebro wrote thanks to Warner - and followed up his role with Tottenham by working at Wembley Stadium with the FA.

In 2010, Richard Sebro found himself needing work - so Jack Warner found himself emailing the bid team, and the bid team found themselves bending over backwards once again to help the graduate find a role.

This is where Aston Villa come in.

Warner sent the bid team a rather specific email. Sebro needed a job, but not just any job. It had to be in the West Midlands, it had to be 20 hours per week, and the wage must be ten pounds per hour worked. Once more, Warner attached correspondence between him and Sebro, stating that a job would be worked out for Sebro. Sebro - who held qualifications in Microbiology and the sciences, found himself working in the marketing department of Aston Villa. Prior to this, the bid team where harassed by Warner, who took every delay in response as a slight towards himself, and Sebro. The might of the bid team shone through, as Sebro copied in the bid team in his acceptance letter to Aston Villa.

Randy Lerner’s Villa found themselves offering a role to Sebro, simply so the bid team could gather votes from Jack Warner and CONCACAF. Aston Villa’s current hierarchy are not to blame, of course - they didn’t own the club at the time. However, Randy Lerner and Aston Villa were in no position to refuse.

The next time you apply for a role - think about it carefully. Cronyism at the highest levels of the industry clearly had an impact on a small part-time role at Aston Villa, what else could it affect?