Hoddle 0, Disabled 1(Hoddle o.g.)

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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE was sacked from his position as England coach last night after admitting a "serious error of judgement" in expressing controversial beliefs about reincarnation and the disabled.

The announcement was made by David Davies, acting chief executive of the Football Association, after days of speculation over the England coach's future. "With regret the FA and Glenn Hoddle have agreed to terminate Glenn's contract," said Mr Davies. "After more than 24 hours of meetings and discussions it became apparent to all those concerned that this was the right decision for English football."

Hoddle later admitted his error, saying: "I accept that I made a serious error of judgement in an interview which caused misunderstanding and pain to a number of people. This was never my intention and for this I apologise."

Just a minute after beginning his statement, Mr Davies had to take what he jokingly described as a "commercial break" caused by a disturbance in the hall. A man wearing a Liverpool shirt burst into the room and started chanting "We want Hoddle out" before being wrestled to the floor and bundled away by security guards.

After beginning again, Mr Davies continued: "The position had become increasingly untenable for both the FA and for Glenn. The past days have been painful for everyone involved. But that is as nothing to any offence that may have been caused to disabled people in our community and in our country. We accept that this wasn't Glenn's intention. It is unquestionable, though, that the controversy over what was or wasn't said has damaged both Glenn and his employers."

In short, the FA was left with no option. It was also announced that Howard Wilkinson, the FA's technical director, had been asked to take charge of the England team for its friendly match against France next Wednesday.

Hoddle was reported in The Times on Saturday as saying that disabled people were paying for sins committed in previous lives, and the resulting row brought in Tony Blair on the side of those who thought he should go if the statements were shown to be accurate.

Hoddle's fate was decided after discussions between six influential members of the FA's international committee. As well as Mr Davies they were: Geoff Thompson, acting FA chairman; Noel White, committee chairman from Liverpool; David Richards, the Sheffield Wednesday chairman; David Sheepshanks, chairman of Ipswich; and David Dein, vice-chairman of Arsenal.

Hoddle was earlier reported as contemplating his own demise. "If I get the sack, then that is something I will have to face up to. It will be something for me to suffer," he said in an interview with The Mirror. "But it will not change my belief that the world is unfair to a huge number of people and that I am luckier than most. I will continue to care for the poor, the disabled and abused."

Downing Street last night refused to comment, but Tony Banks, the Sports minister, said: "It is a personal tragedy that Glenn Hoddle's career as England coach has ended in this fashion.

"He is a decent man but his views as expressed caused distress to many disabled sports men and women who have achieved so many sporting triumphs for the country."

Not even a late personal appeal from Hoddle's daughter yesterday afternoon could save him. In a letter to BBC Ceefax, Zara Hoddle, 13, said: "I am very supportive of disabled people and so is my dad. I think this situation is the most pathetic reason for someone to maybe lose their job and to have so much hassle over. If you would take time to listen to what his explanation is then maybe you would understand it a bit more ... Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon."

The FA, the press and the world had listened, and - in so far as they understood what Hoddle was talking about - finally decided that his views were anything but normal.

`The past few days have been painful for everyone, but that is as nothing compared to any offence that may have been caused to disabled people in our community and our country'

- David Davies, Football Association

`I accept that I made a serious error of judgement in an interview which caused misunderstanding and pain to a number of people. This was never my intention and for this I apologise'

- Glenn Hoddle, ex-England coach

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