Football: Hoddle's call-up for his lawyers

England coach sues newspaper as FA dismisses claims it did not authorise CD interview deal as `rubbish'
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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE'S lawyer said last night the England coach was suing a national newspaper for suggesting he had jeopardised the Football Association's commercial interests.

Peter Baines, of Pictons Solicitors, said it had been alleged that because Hoddle has endorsed a series of CDs containing interviews with England players - each CD is introduced by Hoddle and has a player in an England kit on the cover - the FA has lost out on commercial income. It has also been suggested, he added, that Hoddle's endorsement of the CDs would cause the FA "major commercial embarrassment".

"The FA have confirmed that they have been fully aware of Glenn Hoddle's involvement and that it has their blessing," Baines said in a statement. "The [newspaper article] is clearly calculated to discredit our client and to damage his reputation and we have been instructed to take legal action to obtain redress for our client."

Hoddle's decision to take legal action comes after several months of criticism about his behaviour while in charge of the national side. He was particularly vilified for using the faith healer, Eileen Drewery, in his squad's preparations for France 98, and for profiting from the publication of his World Cup diary - complete with revelations about a number of current players. It appears Hoddle now believes there is a campaign among some sections of the media to oust him from his job and he has taken the action to halt an escalation in allegations about his conduct.

The FA moved to support Hoddle yesterday, dismissing claims that the CD endorsement had been unauthorised as "absolute rubbish". An FA spokesman, Steve Double, said: "We have been fully aware of Glenn's involvement in this and it doesn't conflict in any way with our commercial policies. It is only a problem for us if a player or coach endorses a product in conflict with us." Double added that all endorsements were scrutinised by the FA's commercial department to ensure that they did not conflict with other sponsorships - a player advertising a breakdown recovery company company, for example, when Green Flag already sponsors the national side.

"Players and staff are free to endorse products as long as they are not in conflict," Double said. In the case of the CDs, he said: "We're effectively talking about an interview."

The CDs, which feature players such as Paul Ince and Teddy Sheringham, and make clear that they are "not official products of the Football Association", are essentially recorded magazine-style interviews.

The only accusation that might still be levelled against Hoddle is that he is profiteering from his position as England coach. His solicitor, however, said his client's business interests are not extensive and they are all legitimate. The England coach is a non-executive director of the Lychgate Sanctuary, the clinic run by his friend, Drewery, but he does not profit from it, according to Baines. Hoddle is also a director of three other companies, but their sole function, said Baines, is to handle his commercial income. The Sanctuary is currently applying for charitable status and Baines added that Hoddle was entitled to earn money from other sources.

"When you are a public figure and commercial opportunities come your way, it's not surprising to take some of them," he said.

Dennis Roach, Hoddle's agent, denied that the England coach has abused his position for financial gain. "Between last December and the World Cup, Glenn Hoddle could have made himself thousands but he knocked it back to concentrate on his job coaching the England football team," Roach said. He added that Hoddle had turned down offers of advertising work that may have netted him hundreds of thousands of pounds, including commercials - for Sainsburys, a cola company, and a car manufacturer, among others - and had also turned down a lucrative television commercial for the sports equipment maker, Mitre.

Apart from his diary and its serialisation, however, Hoddle does have incomes from several sources. In addition to money from his book, he makes money from the CD work, from a contract with Mitre to have his name on footballs and football boots, and from television punditry on ITV.

Hoddle is not alone in being an England manager who has profited while in charge of the national side. Bobby Robson and Terry Venables both wrote books while in charge, while Graham Taylor was reportedly paid a large fee to take part in the notorious documentary that trailed him through his time in the job. Robson's and Venables' books differed from Hoddle's, however, in that they were not controversial. Hoddle's mistake was to make his controversial and then have it serialised in the Sun, earning him another six-figure sum.

It is not known how much Hoddle was paid for endorsing the CDs, and it is not known how well they will sell. A spokesman for the manufacturers, a subsidiary of a company called Going for a Song, said: "You'd struggle to find them anywhere at the moment." He added that a trial launch earlier this year, with the CDs priced at pounds 4.99, would only be repeated, perhaps by Christmas, when distributors could be found. The new price will be pounds 2.99. For Hoddle, the price of involvement has led him to sue.

HODDLE'S INCOME

England coaching job

pounds 250,000 per year

World Cup Diary

pounds 200,000

`Sun' Diary serialisation

pounds 200,000

Mitre endorsement

pounds 50,000

TV work

Up to pounds 50,000 per year

CD endorsement

Fee plus royalties

All figures are estimates

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