David Richards, chairman of the English Premier League, has apologised after an embarrassing speech in Doha, where he claimed that soccer had been stolen from the UK by governing bodies FIFA and UEFA, and called on Qatar to relax its alcohol laws ahead of the World Cup in 2022.
Richards, who was speaking at a sports security event, warned his Qatari hosts not to “bury your heads in the sand” over the issue of alcohol, stating “it is our culture as much as your culture is not drinking”.
Media reports also claimed that Richards had fallen into a water feature at Doha’s landmark Museum of Islamic Art, but this has since been denied.
The chairman’s comments about the origins of the sport were partially defused by FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin Hussein, of Jordan.
English football’s governing body, the Football Association, distanced itself from Richards’ remarks, saying that the chairman was attending the conference in a personal capacity.
“My comments on the heritage of the game were intended to be lighthearted,” Richards later said in a statement to the Associated Press.
"They clearly have not come across in that way and I sincerely regret making them. I will be writing to both organisations in these terms."