The 12-man Football Association Board is poised to take dramatic action against "senior figures" in the organisation, including the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson, not only for their handling of the recent crisis centred around the private life of England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, but also because of the way Eriksson's contract was controversially extended and improved earlier this year.
The 12-man Football Association Board is poised to take dramatic action against "senior figures" in the organisation, including the FA's chairman, Geoff Thompson, not only for their handling of the recent crisis centred around the private life of the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, but also because of the way Eriksson's contract was controversially extended and improved earlier this year.
The appetite for further bloodletting at Soho Square was revealed as Eriksson was giving evidence, away from the FA's headquarters, into his role in the crisis, sparked by his affair with Faria Alam, an FA secretary. He was said to be "very happy" after his interview with the lawyer thought to be a barrister specialising in employment law who is conducting the inquiry.
"Sven welcomed this inquiry from the start and it was all very amicable," a source close to Eriksson said. "In no way was it a CIA-style grilling. It was purely a fact-finding exercise and Sven was not involved in any kind of plea or such like."
Pleas for clemency by some FA officials still not exonerated of involvement in the crisis will fall on deaf ears at tomorrow's special Board meeting to discuss the findings of the inquiry.
It is understood that some representatives of the amateur game, who hold six seats on the Board, feel the gathering is their chance to respond to what many saw as an extraordinary gamble by the FA in awarding Eriksson a contract extension and substantial pay rise in March.
"We've consistently been told that the FA was cutting back on things, that's why there's been a lack of funding throughout the game, that's why the national centre at Burton has been on hold," one source said. "How did they justify the extension of the contract for a manager before we'd seen how he could perform? They didn't."
As well as the disquiet from the amateur Board members, at least two of the six members who represent the professional game are still furious about what they see as the way the Eriksson deal was "railroaded" through. This was done mainly by Mark Palios, the FA's now departed chief executive, and David Dein, vice-chairman of Arsenal and the FA, with the backing of Thompson.
No formal vote was taken on that issue at a Board meeting. It is understood that instead Palios contacted each of the Board members in turn and explained that it was effectively a "done deal". Vocal protestations by several Board members did nothing to stop Eriksson's contract from being extended until 2008 at a cost to the FA of some £4m per year.
The prospect of Board members openly hostile to one another, and to their chairman, is the last thing the FA needs when tomorrow's meeting convenes, ostensibly to discuss who was responsible for the Eriksson crisis. However, informed sources suggest that there is certainly an appetite for "more heads to roll", with at least a section of the amateur game believing the FA extended Eriksson's contract in the hope that the Swede would leave sometime this year for Chelsea.
"Some people think the deal was done because it seemed inevitable that Eriksson would go to Chelsea," one source said. "The rationale was that Abramovich gets what he wants and is willing to pay for it. The more Eriksson's contract was worth, the more the FA would claim in compensation. That gamble failed."
Two Board members said last night that they were not aware that such thinking was behind Eriksson's deal but neither was party to the key stages of a deal that was wrapped up before they were informed. Chelsea, who had approached Eriksson to become their manager, subsequently appointed Jose Mourinho.
When Eriksson provided evidence yesterday, the interview took longer than was expected, meaning that Eriksson missed Manchester United's friendly match against PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford. Instead he stayed in London.
Eriksson's camp is increasingly confident that both he and the FA's executive director and acting chief executive David Davies will remain in their posts. They hope that the conclusion will be that the whole affair surrounding the issuing of denials and the threat of legal action was due to a genuine misunderstanding between the two men, who remain friends.
A source close to Eriksson dismissed as "absolute fabrication" a report that Eriksson was keen to "do a deal" with the FA and reach an agreement on a pay-off.
The Board will decide whether to rebuke or hold a vote of no confidence in Thompson, as seems likely, and whether they should dismiss Davies, over their roles in the affair.
Both men's futures appear less secure than that of Eriksson, and they may depart alongside Palios and the FA's director of communications, Colin Gibson, whose resignation is likely to be accepted today.
Davies, who conducted the telephone inquiries with Eriksson which led to the denials and legal proceedings at the heart of the affair, looks particularly vulnerable as the FA was, apparently, unlikely to renew his contract in any event. The FA Board needs a two-thirds majority to oust Thompson, but he may feel the need to quit even if that proportion is not reached.
It was Thompson who last week unilaterally cleared Palios who also had an affair with Alam without the authority to do so. This angered Board members who accused him of being weak and not up to the job. Thompson's position was weakened further by the revelations that there was an FA plot to reveal Eriksson's affair to a newspaper in return for Palios's own relationship with Alam being kept quiet.
Davies is, after Palios's departure, the acting chief executive but has made clear that he does not want the job permanently and has proposed that Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, takes the role if it is on, again, a temporary basis.
Brooking spoke publicly yesterday about the crisis at the heart of the FA, and claimed that Palios would be difficult to replace. "In a short time he made a big and worthwhile contribution and, in my opinion, it won't be easy finding the right person to succeed him," Brooking said. "He did some very good work for the FA at a difficult time. His particular area of expertise is finance and, in that sense, he has made an excellent contribution to the FA and will be a tough act to follow."
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