Premier League chairman Dave Richards accused FIFA and UEFA of stealing the game of football from the English and derided his Qatari host's restrictions on selling alcohol before tumbling into a fountain at an official dinner on Wednesday.
The rants by Richards, who is also a senior Football Association board member, were quickly denounced by the Premier League and English football's governing body. Richards was later forced into an embarrassing climbdown, apologizing for "any negativity" toward FIFA and UEFA while insisting that his comments were "intended to be lighthearted."
Richards did provoke laughter at the dinner reception as delegates were still digesting his comments. At Doha's Museum of Islamic Art, he slipped and tumbled knee-deep into a pool and had to be rescued by Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, a fellow FA board member.
"We were walking across to our table in a dark courtyard area," Gartside told the BBC. "There were three fountain areas nearby, no pool. They had switched off the lights. He thought he was stepping on to flat marble, but his foot went down into the water. He fell over and hurt his leg quite badly."
During his speech, Richards repeatedly reminded an audience including FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan that the world had England to thank for football. "England gave the world football. It gave the best legacy anyone could give. We gave them the game," Richards said. "For 50 years, we owned the game ... we were the governance of the game. We wrote the rules, designed the pitches and everything else. Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said you're liars and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA. Fifty years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more."
Prince Ali then reminded Richards that there was still a debate over whether the Chinese or the English invented the sport, but the 68-year-old Richards leapt to the defense of his country.
"It started in Sheffield 150 years ago ...," Richards said, his voice rising. "We started the game and wrote the rules and took it to the world. The Chinese may say they own it but the British own it and we gave it to the rest of the world."
Richards had attended the conference about new frontiers in sports to share his Premier League experience. But he also questioned the lack of availability of alcohol in Qatar, which won the bid for the 2022 World Cup after arguing it was time for football to move beyond traditional markets.
Alcohol is only sold in some five-star hotels in Qatar, and Richards noted that the English and Germans "like to go for a pint and that pint is a pint of beer."
"It is our culture as much as your culture is not drinking," he said, warning Qatar not to "bury your head in the sand" on the issue" because it could fans off from attending the World Cup.