FA braced as ex-secretary seeks £30,000 at tribunal

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The Independent Online

The Football Association is braced for serious embarrassment today when a former secretary who was at the centre of a sex scandal gives evidence to an employment tribunal.

Faria Alam, who allegedly had affairs with England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and Mark Palios, the former chief executive, is claiming £30,000 in compensation from the FA which she claims unfairly dismissed her, breached her contract and awarded her unequal pay. Ms Alam, 39, resigned last August following newspaper revelations about the two alleged affairs, which prompted the biggest crisis in the history of the FA.

Mr Palios resigned as British football's most senior administrator. His communications chief Colin Gibson resigned after the News of the World claimed he offered it extensive details of the relationship between Ms Alam and Mr Eriksson in return for a promise to leave Mr Palios out of the story. The newspaper instead revealed the FA's attempts to broker a deal, eventually sparking an independent review of the entire workings of the governing body.

The hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal is expected to hear evidence today from Ms Alam. Her former boss David Davies and Mr Gibson have also been called to give their version of events.

Mr Eriksson will not appear after an internal inquiry conducted by a lawyer for the FA last year ruled he had "no case to answer" over his conduct.

Leaks from submissions made to the tribunal a week ago suggest the FA, currently enjoying a period of rare calm under Brian Barwick, the new chief executive, will again have to endure negative publicity as the anniversary of "Fariagate" approaches.

Ms Alam, who has already earned a reported £500,000 in media deals to give her version of events to the News of the World, The Mail on Sunday and ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald, is expected for the first time to name the FA executive whom she claims sexually harassed her.

She will also claim that her diary went missing, her e-mails were monitored and she was "bullied" into signing a statement denying allegations of an affair.

More importantly for her claim, she will tell the tribunal that in the days before her departure she was not informed properly of her rights to privacy and a lawyer. She will also claim that she first learned of her bosses' plans to jettison her from newspaper reports.

Both sides in the tribunal have insisted they would not back out of the hearing, which is scheduled to take place over six days.

Publicist Max Clifford, who represents Ms Alam, said: "They brought her private life into the public domain and hung her out to dry in an attempt to save Mark Palios. Is that really the way bosses should talk about their staff? We think Faria has a strong case."

The FA was determined not to be pressured by Ms Alam into settling before the tribunal, even though she is asking for £30,000 - compared to £600,000 awarded as a pay-off to Mr Palios. Former coaches David Platt and Les Reed are also involved in fights with the FA, which is determined to clamp down on a compensation culture.