Fabio Capello wiped out the Wag culture that surrounded England in Germany in 2006 at a stroke yesterday by banning the wives and girlfriends circus from South Africa next summer. The England manager laid down stringent rules for his players' families one day after his team qualified for the World Cup finals.
The infamous Wags – wives and girlfriends – will only be able to visit their husbands or partners on the day after matches in South Africa. Capello said: "We are there to play, not for a holiday. The players will have one day with their family. It will be one day a week, after each game and that is enough. That's it. I like [the set-up] we have made here at training [at their hotel in Hertfordshire] where the players stay together."
As well as becoming only the second England manager to win a World Cup – and the first foreigner – it emerged yesterday that there is also a £2m bonus at stake for Capello. The 63-year-old has a basic salary of around £4m from the Football Association but he can boost that by £2m if he wins the World Cup with England, making him comfortably the highest-paid manager at the tournament.
Although not all the players' families were culpable in soaking up the attention of the paparazzi in Baden-Baden in 2006, the small south-western spa town near England's base, the actions of a few contributed to an aura that lacked professionalism. Asked whether it would be a circus again, Capello tutted loudly and replied: "No, absolutely not. Please. If they [Wags] do not want to come for the day, then they should stay at home."
The huge scale of South Africa, and the likely remoteness of England's training camp, will make it difficult for the families to set themselves up nearby. It is understood that some parents of England players are considering staying at home next summer because of the lack of an organised trip by the FA and fears about their personal security if they travel to South Africa independently.
Capello had told the FA that he wants it to wait until the draw in Cape Town in December before it makes a decision on where the squad will be based. There are a number of options, with the favourite being somewhere near the northern city of Rustenberg. In 2006 they stayed in the Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe in the Black Forest near Baden-Baden, a former hospice for soldiers that had been refitted as a celebrity wedding venue.
Capello is understood to be dubious about the options that have been offered, to the extent that the pre-tournament preparation will take place in south-eastern Austria where the team can acclimatise to the altitude conditions they may face in South Africa. Sven Goran Eriksson, the last manager to take England to a major tournament, permitted his players' families to join them in Portugal for their pre-tournament preparation in 2006.
In Germany, the FA facilitated a trip for the players' families to stay in the Brenner's Park Hotel, Baden-Baden's most opulent hotel. The mix of the massed ranks of paparazzi camped outside, as well as the England press pack staying in the hotel, made for a feverish atmosphere.
Capello returned to Italy yesterday with his wife Laura and may call in at the Italian grand prix at Monza on Sunday. Laura Capello was at Wembley on Wednesday night but it is rare for his sons Eduardo and Pierfilippo to attend games. Pierfilippo, who helped negotiate his father's contract with the FA, is a senior lawyer specialising in sport at a Milan practice.
The players' bonuses for the World Cup finals have not yet been set. The players' pool is administered by 1966, an independent company, who set up a separate pool for the 23 players named in the World Cup squad and divide bonuses according to games played. They usually negotiate a percentage share of the money earned from the FA's key sponsors.
"We have made the first step and now we go to South Africa," Capello said. "But we have to work a lot because to win the World Cup finals would be a really strong moment. It's different when you go to the World Cup because you have to win the first round and that is the worst moment of the tournament. We have a good team and are playing very well but we have to stay with our feet on the floor."
Baden-Baden revisited: WAGs with an appetite for distraction
They came, they saw, they shopped, drank champagne and danced on tables. The German spa town of Baden-Baden was once famous for the restorative power of its waters and a funicular railway. Now it will always be synonymous with the WAGs of England's 2006 World Cup squad.
Players were allowed to take official FA cars from their castle base in the Black Forest to visit wives, family and children in the Brenner's Park hotel. Sven Goran Eriksson's partner Nancy Dell'Olio was one of the WAGs' leading lights.
Many players have since expressed regret at the way in which the WAG circus was allowed to develop. If it had not been for Capello they might have banned their other halves themselves.
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