Fabio Capello's future as England manager looked to be almost secure last night when senior figures in the Football Association decided to turn the decision over to the FA's only executive director, Alex Horne, which signals that they are not prepared to go hunting for a new coach.
Under pressure from the Premier League over his dual role with both organisations, Sir Dave Richards, who on Monday put himself in charge of the review process over Capello's position, has sought to pass on the public accountability for the decision. Horne is the only executive left on the FA board, after the resignations of chief executive Ian Watmore and chairman Lord Triesman. Richards has now decided Horne should be the public face of the decision on Capello, which looks likely to be to keep him. A source close to the process said yesterday that "barring a major change of heart" Capello will stay on.
In the chaos following Triesman's exit, Horne was fast-tracked in May into the role as FA general secretary – a newly created post. Although Horne is well-regarded at the FA, there is no way that Richards or the professional representatives on the main board would entrust him with the job of recruiting a new manager. That he has been installed as the nominal head of the process is a sign that the main board will decide that Capello is to be the manager for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualification campaign.
With the FA in meltdown and Richards, the Premier League chairman, in power by default, all sorts of battles are going on behind the scenes. Perhaps the most critical is by Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, who is angry that Richards' FA role – he sits on the board, is chairman of Club England and the international committee – creates a public perception that the Premier League is appointing England's manager. Richards has moved in recent days to speed up the process and divest himself of responsibility for deciding on Capello.
The FA will still hold a review, likely to be presented to the next main board meeting on 14 July, on what went wrong at the World Cup.
David Sheepshanks, a second influential FA main board member, appeared to give Capello some support yesterday in an interview with BBC Radio Suffolk. Phil Gartside, the Bolton Wanderers chairman, broke cover on Tuesday and gave his support to Capello. Between them the two men represent two of the five seats that the professional game holds on the FA board.
Sheepshanks said: "Knee-jerk reactions never work best. Fabio is tremendously able, one of the world's best managers and a month ago I don't think you'd have heard many people disagree with that."
It is thought that Capello will make changes if he stays. There are expected to be changes among his extensive back-room and support staff.