Svengate affair: Some people think it's all over. It isn't yet
Sunday 08 August 2004
A friendly football match against the Ukraine is not many people's idea of the end of the rainbow. But there is one man who just can't wait for it to happen.
For when Sven Goran Eriksson takes his place on the bench at St James's Park on 18 August, he knows that at last the spotlight will switch to his professional abilities, rather than his private life.
But for now he will just have to show one of his more enigmatic faces to the world, as speculation and revelations in the saga of his relationship with the Football Association secretary Faria Alam continue to reverberate. He will also have to hope that his ex-partner, the Italian lawyer Nancy Dell'Olio, retains a dignified silence.
Ms Alam has sold her story to The Mail on Sunday and the News of the World for £500,000. But, according to her agent, Max Clifford, she has been in regular contact with Mr Eriksson throughout the past few weeks. "They've been talking on a daily basis," he said. "She thinks a lot of him and he thinks a lot of her. She has taken over as the lady in his life. I'm not saying it's leading anywhere."
Yesterday The Sun reported that Mr Eriksson is preparing to buy the silence of Ms Dell'Olio by giving her their £3m London home. The couple split after six years following Mr Eriksson's affair with Ms Alam. Revelations about their private life could destroy Mr Eriksson's career and earn Ms Dell'Olio £1.5m, Mr Clifford said.
"What Nancy has is all the things she knows about the Beckhams, what really happened with Sven's negotiations with Manchester United and Chelsea, and what Sven has said about the England players," Mr Clifford said. "All the things that she and he would have talked about - what happened behind the scenes. It would put him in an impossible position."
Ms Alam's affair with Mr Eriksson and the FA's former chief executive Mark Palios has thrown the organisation into crisis. Mr Palios and his press adviser, Colin Gibson, have been forced to resign, and the careers of the acting chief executive, David Davies, and chairman Geoff Thompson are still in danger.
Mr Eriksson has come out of the débâcle in a stronger position than when he entered it. The knives were said to be out for the England coach after the team's poor performance in Euro 2004. But the FA's legal advisers said last week that he had "no case to answer" over allegations that he had lied to his bosses about his affair with Ms Alam.
Throughout, Ms Dell'Olio, who stood by Mr Eriksson after his widely publicised affair with the television presenter Ulrika Jonsson, has kept a dignified silence. But if she chose to tell all, it is likely his position would become untenable.
Mr Clifford said: "After this weekend the public is likely to be tired of Sven's sex life. It's dominated the last two or three weeks and you can have too much of a good thing.
"In terms of Sven the man, Sven and sex, it's been done. But what happened with the Beckhams? What did Victoria say about Rebecca Loos [with whom David Beckham was said to have had an affair]? All these things Nancy was privy to. That would put £1m on top of £500,000."
He added: "It would put Sven in an impossible position. How would he look and how could he work if he had said how stupid this, how ridiculous that. What if he was critical of big names?
"With that in mind, £3m is a reasonable settlement because of the embarrassment it would cause him."
The fall-out from what has been dubbed "Fariagate" is set to continue this week. Mr Davies is still under scrutiny for his initial handling of the revelations. Mr Thompson also remains vulnerable after seeking to clear Mr Palios without the knowledge of the rest of the board.
Graham Kelly, a former chief executive of the FA, said: "Thompson must accept responsibility for the shambles and resign." An overhaul of the FA's structure is also expected, with much of last Thursday's board meeting taken up with a discussion on reform.
Rupert Lowe, the chairman of Southampton Football Club, said: "It is a pity the leadership has been so poor. I hope the process will allow for a reorganisation and for a sensible long-term approach."
But the Sports minister, Richard Caborn, praised the leadership of Mr Palios, calling him "first class". "He took the organisation forward," he said, "and I haven't heard anything critical of him."
The affair has also raised a question mark over the future of the £750m project to rebuild Wembley Stadium. David James, a corporate consultant who carried out a review of the scheme for the Government in 2002, said last week: "They should reinstate Palios. If they don't, they are going to have lost the plot completely and put the whole future of the Wembley project at risk.
"The national interest is surely that we get Wembley Stadium built on budget on time and prepare ourselves for a reasonable stab at a World Cup coming to this country. And we are not going to do that if we lose Palios."
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