FA accuses secretary at centre of sex scandal of changing story to boost her bank balance

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The Independent Online

Battered by claims of sexual misconduct at its highest levels, the Football Association has chosen attack as its best form of defence, portraying the former secretary Faria Alam as a gossipy opportunist bent on exploiting her love life for financial gain.

Lawyers for the FA read out a series of e-mails sent by the 39-year-old personal assistant in which she "boasted" to friends and family of her affairs with Mark Palios, the organisation's former chief executive, and the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson.

The messages, put before an employment tribunal at Holborn in central London - which had been sent before the relationships became public last year - contained declarations by Ms Alam of how she wanted to be "very, very rich" and knew journalists who would pay for a kiss-and-tell account of her private life.

The secretary admitted she was paid £300,000 for that story and had sent her resignation letter to the FA from the office of the publicist Max Clifford just before she signed a contract with two Sunday newspapers.

Under cross-examination during the second day of her claim for sexual discrimination and unfair dismissal, Ms Alam was accused of changing her account of the affairs to suit her bank balance. Jeffrey Bacon, for the FA, told her: "For you, what you say and what gets written depends on how many noughts there are on the end of the cheque." Ms Alam was also accused of adding new allegations to her case last week to pressure the FA into settling out of court.

The fresh claims included that she had been persistently sexually harassed by the "third man" of the saga, David Davies, her FA boss and former BBC presenter, and asked to lie by Mr Eriksson about their affair when it was made public after the Euro 2004 tournament last July.

The allegations were part of a sustained assault on Ms Alam's case, that she became the subject of a dirty tricks campaign to sully her reputation and save Mr Palios's job when the scandal was unveiled by News of the World (NoW) after the Euro 2004 tournament. E-mails were read out telling of Mr Eriksson's prowess at performing a particular sexual act.

It was claimed the messages were sent to a number of Ms Alam's female colleagues and family members, including her brother.

Aware of the scandalous potential of her liaisons, the secretary referred to her two lovers by pet names - "Pretty Polly" or "PP" for Mr Palios and "Sugar" for Mr Eriksson because, as Ms Alam put it, "he's sweet".

In one e-mail sent last June and subsequently sold to NoW by a colleague at the FA, the secretary said: "I want to be happy and very, very rich and successful. And I will be. I am not going to go through life settling for second best EVER. If things go well with Sugar, he'll announce it in the papers or some photographer will find out who I am. But not yet. He's been pursuing me since last September."

Mr Bacon said that Ms Alam had been far from picky in choosing recipients for her gossip and had barely known the colleague who eventually sold the messages, named as Leila Khan.

In an e-mail to Ms Khan shortly after she joined the FA in 2003, the secretary said: "I am 36, unmarried and loving it. My social life is amazing. I date famous people - not at liberty to say who I'm afraid." The tribunal heard that such discretion soon disappeared.

A further message shortly before Ms Alam's affair with Mr Eriksson began in June 2004 read: "Haven't been naughty yet but the chap I will see tomorrow night is the more famous one. Can't say names on here - let's call him Sugar, sweet and he's the coach."

Mr Bacon put it to Ms Alam that the e-mails meant the secretary was the author of her own downfall: "I suggest that it was the liberal way in which you talked about these matters, boasting to your colleagues, that led to the story exploding."

The lawyer claimed that the FA had worked hard to protect Ms Alam from the media frenzy during the two-week period between her relationship with the England manager becoming public and her decision to sell her story to the Mail on Sunday and NoW for £150,000 each on 5 August last year. "Your letter of resignation was sent from Max Clifford's office," he said. "We know that by that evening you have become £300,000 richer... You resigned to sell your story didn't you?" The secretary, who admitted lying to her employer and an independent inquiry about her affair with Mr Eriksson, insisted she was forced from her job by anonymous FA briefings against her making clear her position was untenable.

She said: "I resigned because I didn't think I had any choice. If I had wanted to sell my story I would have done so long before." The tribunal was told that the secretary had kept "a trick up her sleeve" by adding the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Davies and incitement to lie against Mr Eriksson to her claim last Wednesday.

Mr Bacon said none of the claims, including the existence of a notebook detailing Mr Davies' alleged misconduct which subsequently vanished, had been mentioned before last week. The lawyer said: "You are making them up. It is rubbish." Ms Alam replied: "No sir, I didn't."

The case continues.

Alam's e-mails

* "I want to be happy and very rich and successful. And I will be. I am not going to go through life settling for second best EVER. If things go well with Sugar [Eriksson], he'll announce it in the papers or some photographer will find out who I am. But not yet. He's been pursuing me since September."

* "I am 36, unmarried and loving it. My social life is amazing. I date famous people - not at liberty to say who, I'm afraid."

* "Haven't been naughty yet but the chap I will see tomorrow night is the more famous one. Can't say names on here - let's call him Sugar, sweet and he's the coach."