Sitting in judgement: the FA jury who will decide manager's fate

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The Independent Online

It will not go unnoticed that the Football Association's Board - the élite group who will next week sit in judgement on Sven Goran Eriksson - has 12 members. After all, the England coach had already been made to feel he's on trial. And here's the jury.

It will not go unnoticed that the Football Association's Board - the élite group who will next week sit in judgement on Sven Goran Eriksson - has 12 members. After all, the England coach had already been made to feel he's on trial. And here's the jury.

At its emergency meeting the board also has the power to discipline - and ultimately sack - Eriksson, chief executive Mark Palios and Faria Alam, the third member of the somewhat unlikely ménage à trois at Soho Square. Alam, the 38-year-old personal assistant of the FA's executive director, David Davies, is likely to be dismissed when she returns from holiday in any case.

Whether Eriksson follows her is the main topic of discussion before the board, which will consider the findings of the inquiry report from the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson, who started his investigations on Monday afternoon. The board can act without having to refer its decision to any other FA body, such as the FA Council which is the unwieldy, 92-strong elected representatives from the various parts of football - including the Premier League, the Football League, county associations and even the universities, schools and services.

The council meets just six times a year to consider "major policy issues". But it's the board, established in 1999 to streamline the decision-making process, that is in control even if, in recent years, the changes at the FA, with a whole raft of full-time executives being appointed, have given the impression of another shift in power. Also, the average age of the board, which had not been due to meet until the last week in August, has dropped dramatically of late. There are fewer Eightysomethings. It has, in its own way, become more dynamic.

Six of the board's members come from the professional game and fiercely protect their interests. They include forceful characters such as the Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein and Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe who have, at times, advocated radical shifts in power and authority. They are not quite the "Dad's Army" dodderers of previous years. The other six represent what is known as the national game - the county FAs, including the members from Norfolk, Devon and Gloucestershire. All 12 are non-executive directors of the FA.

Dein, a long-standing supporter of Eriksson and a deft operator, will undoubtedly be an influential force in any decision that is taken, as will the less vocal David Richards, who stands for the Premier League. But the representatives of the national game should not be dismissed. They hold equal power with the professionals, in terms of voting rights, and have, in particular, grown increasingly unhappy with Eriksson, his performance and, above all, his extraordinary, and recently enhanced, salary. It is noticeable that it has been from their ranks that the most public criticisms have come.

Also from within their number has emerged Thompson, who earlier this month was elected unopposed for a second four-year term as chairman of the FA, having originally taken the job on a temporary basis in February 1999 when he succeeded Keith Wiseman. Thompson worked his way through from representing the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA. He sits on every committee in an ex officio role and was also recently re-elected to the Uefa Executive Committee.

It was Thompson, 59, who - eventually - employed Palios after being criticised for his role in the departure of the previous chief executive, Adam Crozier, who left after a failed power struggle with the Premier League. That led to Thompson being branded a "coward" weeping "crocodile tears" for his failure to support his man. Eriksson was among those who made it clear he was unhappy with the way Thompson had acted and the chairman later admitted he had been hurt by the affair. It is also an allegation Thompson is clearly mindful of not facing again when it comes to Palios's future. He also knows already that there is no great appetite among the board to replace the chief executive at present.

At the same time, and in explaining his motivations, Thompson has revealed his deeply-held, Christian beliefs. "I believe in God, Jesus Christ and the afterlife. I believe in being a good Samaritan," he said in response to the criticisms he faced.

Going further back it should not be forgotten that it was one of Thompson's first acts, as acting chairman, to oversee the deliberations which ushered in the departure of former England manager Glenn Hoddle, another Christian, after he made remarks about reincarnation and the disabled in a newspaper interview. Ultimately, it was Thompson who sacked him after Hoddle refused to go despite the outcry he had caused.

Maybe Thompson is about to dispense with his second England coach in five years for matters which, ostensibly, have little to do with football. Much will depend on the report he submits a week tomorrow.

Justice department: chairman Thompson and the FA board

Geoff Thompson: FA chairman and member of the "Sheffield mafia" of old-school administrators in senior football posts. Has long been wary of change and was never a convincingly enthusiastic backer of a foreign England coach. Said yesterday he was confident Mark Palios did not mislead FA. Tellingly, did not say the same about Eriksson.

David Dein: Arsenal's vice-chairman head-hunted Eriksson for the FA ­ he had a vested interest in Eriksson's appointment because Arsène Wenger was an alternative England candidate. Liable to back the Swede.

Dave Richards: Chairman of the Premier League. Not as pro-Eriksson as Dein, and actively hostile to Mark Palios's predecessor, Adam Crozier, who hired Eriksson. Unlikely to be Eriksson's ally.

David Sheepshanks: The Ipswich chairman, known as an honourable figure,declared Eriksson's appointment "exceptionally good", calling detractors "xenophobic losers". Pro-Sven.

Peter Heard: Chairman of Colchester United and influential figure on several FA committees. Sat on the three-man panel that judged Rio Ferdinand's "missed drugs test" hearing. Stalwart FA man.

Rupert Lowe: Chairman of Southampton. Unlikely that he would call for Sven's head for matters in his private life, but not the kind of man who pays managers £4m a year without results.

Phil Gartside: Bolton chairman and newest of six board members from the professional game. An internationalist, as evidenced by Bolton's squad, he will not be calling for Eriksson's head.

The other FA board members: Dave Henson (Devon FA), Ray Kiddell (Norfolk), Barry Bright (Kent), Roger Burden (Gloucestershire), Peter Hough (Dorset), Mike Rawding (East Riding).

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