English football yesterday went from the ridiculous to the sublimely so. Four days after ignominiously exiting the European Championships, those responsible for Wednesday's farce were learning to live with the price of failure. In South Africa, the Football Association had no fewer than seven officials, flown out to a luxury hotel to see today's draw for the 2010 World Cup. In Barbados, ex-England manager Steve McClaren was expected soon to oversee the fitting out of his second million-dollar villa. And back home, news came that the players who performed so ineptly at Wembley would share in a million-plus bonus pot that would net some of them up to £150,000. That'll teach them.
By way of contrast, the Scottish team – who visibly did give their all in every minute of the European qualifying games – got nothing. There may be a lesson here for the next England boss.
The FA party in South Africa, which includes chief executive Brian Barwick and six other officials, is staying at the Southern Sun North Beach Hotel on Durban's Golden Mile. A Travelodge it ain't. With rooms at up to £200 a night, it boasts an outdoor swimming pool on the 32nd floor. When asked about the number of officials on the trip (most football associations send only three), an FA spokesman said that England was bidding for the 2018 World Cup.
As far as the draw for the 2010 contest goes, that will take place this afternoon. Thanks to Wednesday's defeat, England are ranked as mere second seeds (along with Scotland, Bulgaria and Israel), and so will have to beat one of Europe's top nations such as Germany, Italy, Greece or Croatia, to win an automatic place. Should that not happen, then England would be left scrabbling to be one of the eight best runners-up, playing off for four spots. Across the globe, there are 170 nations competing for 31 places (South Africa qualify as hosts) – numbers that would have to be reversed for England fans to feel any confidence.
Still, for the players, there is always the bonus, courtesy of the pot into which some sponsors' money goes, plus other incomes from appearances and sundry rights. It is shared out on the basis of games played in qualifying matches and Steven Gerrard, who captained the side on Wednesday, is expected to collect £150,000 to supplement his normal £120,000-a-week wages. The England players do, however, always donate their £1,000 match fee to charity. The bonus pot is administered by the squad's commercial agents, 1966 Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of a firm founded by Spice Girls "Svengali" Simon Fuller, which, in turn, is part-owned by CKX Inc, the US firm that owns the rights to Elvis Presley's likeness.
Meanwhile, the man who a week ago was England manager, Steve McClaren, is reported to be flying soon to Barbados. Having bought a £1.8m five-bedroom villa six weeks ago, he now owns two properties on the island's Royal Westmoreland Estate. He will occupy the larger one and is expected to rent out the other. And with the £2.5m FA pay-off, he can now expand his Caribbean property portfolio. His assistant, Terry Venables, is reported to have been given a £1m pay-off. The performances may have been sub-prime, but the rewards, it seems, are not.Reuse content