Reform must be the FA's top priority, warns Lowe

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The Independent Football

The FA will have to reform itself before choosing a chief executive to replace Mark Palios, the Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe warned yesterday.

With David Davies, who has performed the caretaker's role as often as Tony Parkes at Blackburn, back in temporary charge, Lowe, who is an FA director, said he saw no reason to rush to appoint a replacement.

Lowe echoed the comments of the FA former chief executive, Graham Kelly, who argued that in recent years the organisation has lost sight of its true purpose. "The key issue is now to get the structure of the FA right," said Lowe, who is seen by some as a future chairman of the organisation.

"The FA is the game's governing body and should be in charge of grass-roots football and avoid getting involved in too many other things. They should put in place a sustainable structure and then find the right people to carry out the duties."

If the FA merely seeks a front-man to replace Palios, then Davies and Sir Trevor Brooking, who heads the football development office, should be able to fulfil the task between them at least until the future of Sven Goran Eriksson, the England coach, becomes clear in the coming month. Lowe's comments appear to be aimed at the FA's marketing arm and communications department that attempted disastrously to spin the Faria Alam affair against the Eriksson.

The thoughts of his former lover, smeared across pages of The Mail on Sunday, part of a newspaper group that has proved a vicious opponent, would have caused Eriksson excruciating embarrassment but did not grievously wound.

The Swede is famously protective of a tangled private life and would have recoiled from revelations about his sexual technique. However, the headline that he was a "Master Love Maker" would not exactly diminish his authority with his players, although the assertion by Alam that the FA tried to buy her silence would have deepened the gloom at Soho Square.

Alam's claim that there are "some officials at the FA who want to destroy him", would also hardly have come as a surprise to Eriksson. He would even be aware of their names and Eriksson's relationship with his chairman, Geoff Thompson, whose first reaction to the scandal was to clear Palios and damn his coach with silence, would be approaching the glacial coldness that existed between Sir Harold Thompson and Sir Alf Ramsey in the 1970s.

The only way forward is for one of them to resign and compensating Thompson is far cheaper than paying off Eriksson's enormous contract.

Since he cannot be sacked for his private life, Eriksson has to be removed on results. The FA appears prepared to hand him three matches, the friendly with Ukraine at St James' Park and the two World Cup qualifiers in Austria and Poland.

The golden rule with the FA is that managers are fired if they fail or look like failing to qualify for tournaments. Two victories and Eriksson and his private life will be safe, until the next exposé.