Davies to face inquisition after Eriksson denies misleading FA

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Sven Goran Eriksson last night took the extraordinary step of issuing a public statement about his private life to claim he had never "categorically confirmed or denied" to the Football Association that he had an affair with Faria Alam, the secretary at the centre of the controversy that threatens to cost the England manager his job.

Sven Goran Eriksson last night took the extraordinary step of issuing a public statement about his private life to claim he had never "categorically confirmed or denied" to the Football Association that he had an affair with Faria Alam, the secretary at the centre of the controversy that threatens to cost the England manager his job.

The Swede's words will resonate around the FA, not least for its executive director, David Davies, who is understood to be the senior official who quizzed Eriksson on 19 July about the affair. Two official FA denials about the affair were subsequently authorised at the Soho Square headquarters, one on 19 July and one on 24 July.

The FA announced on Tuesday that it is holding an urgent inquiry into whether it had been misled after being forced to confirm the affair between Eriksson and Alam. The aim is to discover whether Eriksson lied, and if so, to decide whether he should be sacked. Such a move could lead to a lengthy, costly court battle, with Eriksson likely to sue for a massive pay-off to compensate for losing a contract worth £14m between now and 2008.

Eriksson said last night that neither he nor his advisers "had any prior knowledge whatsoever" of the FA statements denying the affair.

The crux of the FA's investigation will be establishing beyond doubt three facts: who spoke to Eriksson on 19 July; what precisely Eriksson said; and who issued instructions to begin distributing inaccurate denials and threatening legal action.

Davies's evidence is certain to be central to the investigation. Speaking yesterday from Spain, where he has been on holiday, he declined to discuss his testimony. "I will give the evidence I have to give to the appropriate people, when asked," he said. "Contrary to reports, I am not flying back at anyone's behest, no interview [for the inquiry] has yet been scheduled."

The precariousness of the FA's position was emphasised yesterday as it became clear that many legal experts believe Eriksson would almost certainly succeed in a legal battle for compensation if sacked, even if the FA can show that he lied to it about the affair. Under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the FA had no right to ask the Swede about any aspect of his personal life.

"The FA could argue that the affair itself was gross misconduct, but that would only apply if there was a clause in Eriksson's contract expressly forbidding him to enter a relationship with an employee of that organisation," said Roger Welch, a senior lecturer at Portsmouth University and an expert in sports law. "That seems unlikely. The FA's chief executive [Mark Palios] had a similar relationship with the same woman.

"If the FA did decide to sack [Eriksson], I can't see any way the case would not end up in court, because Eriksson has either refused to answer the question, which he is perfectly entitled to do, and therefore cannot be held responsible for the statement that was released, or he has given an incorrect answer to a question that shouldn't have been asked."

Davies was happy yesterday to answer a question that, under normal circumstances, would never have been asked, namely whether he too had had an affair with Alam.

Any confirmation that Davies, Alam's immediate manager, had done so would have critically undermined any evidence he provided to the inquiry. But asked to comment, he said: "Off the record, it's bollocks and garbage. On the record, it's bollocks and garbage."

Davies is due today to fly back to England, where he will be quizzed about his precise role in the questioning of the England coach. It is understood that Eriksson's response, when asked by the FA about Alam on 19 July, was open to interpretation. One source claims Eriksson used a phrase like, "that's nonsense", by which he might have meant, "What nonsense this is, having to deal with this."

Such matters will present the FA with a legal minefield. "This is all speculation until the outcome of the FA board of inquiry," said Chris Synnott, a lawyer who has worked for the FA and is now with a West End firm, the Simkins Partnership, which specialises in sports, entertainment and media law.

"Was that phrase about nonsense, if accurate, actually a denial? If that's what was said, it's open to interpretation. Or was something lost in translation, was its use something cleverer, actually an avoidance tactic?"

The FA's 12-man board will meet next Thursday to discuss the findings of the FA's inquiry. The FA has cancelled an Eriksson press conference scheduled for next Wednesday ahead of England's friendly with Ukraine next month.

Eriksson at least retains the support of his captain. Speaking last night from Tokyo, where he is touring with Real Madrid, David Beckham said: "He's been a great man to me, a great man to the rest of the players. Everyone of the players respects him as a manager. I've enjoyed working with him and I hope I'll carry on working with him."

Some areas of the inquiry throw up more questions than answers. The FA says it is being conducted by an "independent lawyer", but refused yesterday to name the person in question. Contrary to reports, it is not David Engel, who works for the City firm, Addleshaw Goddard, which regularly works for the FA.

While such an appointment would have thrown the independence of the inquiry into doubt, the FA would not discount the possibility yesterday that someone else from Addleshaw Goddard was heading the inquiry.

Eriksson is not afraid to resort to legal action, as he showed last year when suing Benfica for £300,000 in taxes arising from his second spell in charge there between 1989 and 1992. With nearly 50 times at much at stake, he will not be going quietly.

Alam is apparently not going quietly either. Reports yesterday suggested that she is about to sign a deal to tell her story, with the strong suggestion that there is a third lover at the FA. The PR consultant Max Clifford insisted he was not representing Alam, but suggested her story would be worth £1m.

Eriksson's statement yesterday

"It is my policy never to comment on my private life. This policy has always been fully understood and accepted by my employers, the Football Association. However, I have been so distressed by recent inaccurate comment and speculation about my professional integrity that I feel I must now make the following statement:

With regard to the Football Association's forthcoming enquiry announced on July 27th into 'the circumstances which led to the FA issuing legal statements based on misleading information', I wish to state unequivocally that in keeping with the above policy I have at no time either categorically confirmed or denied any relationship with Ms Faria Alam.

Moreover, neither I nor my advisors had any prior knowledge whatsoever of the statement authorised by the Football Association on behalf of Ms Alam on Monday 19th July, nor of the press release issued by the Football Association on Saturday 24th July, nor were either myself or my advisors consulted in any way about the contents of either statement.

I therefore welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters with the Football Association next week, and I look forward thereafter to our qualification campaign for the 2006 Fifa World Cup. I will be making no further comment on these matters until such time as the Football Association's enquiry has been concluded."

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