The search for a visionary administrator with the business acumen of Bill Gates, the diplomacy of Nelson Mandela, the firefighting skills of Red Adair and the patience of a saint was under way at the Football Association last night after the governing body's shareholders voted in favour of major reforms, including the landmark appointment of an independent chairman.
This key post will be a part-time, non-executive role, commanding a salary in proportion to the same job at a plc (somewhere up to £250,000 a year). It will be advertised soon and the FA hopes the new man (or woman) will be in place to shadow the current chairman, Geoff Thompson, from January 2008, and take the reigns themselves six months later.
Senior FA insiders expect a flood of high-calibre candidates. Applicants should have experience of working for a major organisation (the FA turns over £200m a year), and be ready for all the roller-coaster experiences that chairing a new-look FA Board and FA Council, as well as representing the FA at Fifa and Uefa gatherings, will entail.
Philip French, the chief executive of Supporters' Direct, summed up the characteristics required by calling for "a strong independent thinker", "a person of substance and opinion but who can find compromise", and "someone with vision and leadership".
Names floated in the media and in football circles include Sir Richard Evans, the former chairman of British Aerospace, Kate Barker, a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, and Lord Mawhinney, the current chairman of the Football League. But the slate is clean, and the FA is open-minded.
The FA's shareholders voted in favour of reform at yesterday's AGM at Wembley Stadium, when 78.5 per cent of the 915 votes cast were in favour of the structural review recommended by Lord Burns.
The other main changes to the FA will see a restructuring of the FA Board and an expansion of the FA Council to become a "Parliament" of football with added representation for players, managers, referees, women's football, ethnic minorities, disability football and fans.
The independent chairman's major tasks will include unifying the game, addressing the issue of the national training centre at Burton-upon-Trent, and solving the dilemma of a game that has never been so rich but so stricken by financial crises.