FA bow to inquiry after débâcle

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The Independent Online

An Independent inquiry is to be held into the way the Football Association is run in the wake of the Faria Alam affair. The FA Board will meet today and, having already announced that a review will take place into the organisation's failings, is likely to bow to Government pressure that it should be headed by someone not already connected with the FA.

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, has made it clear in recent meetings that he does not want to appoint an independent watchdog to monitor the sport but that he does favour an outside figure to oversee the review. And although some members of the 12-strong board are thought to be resistant to the idea, it is likely to be accepted for the sake of compromise. The FA does not want to jeopardise the £9.4m it receives from the Government in grassroots funding.

The FA's failings were embarrassingly exposed by how it handled the revelations that England coach Sven Goran Eriksson and chief executive Mark Palios had both had an affair with Alam. Palios, and the FA's director of communications, Colin Gibson, both lost their jobs in the débâcle with Eriksson narrowly surviving efforts to sack him.

The board, which is made up of representatives from the professional and amateur games, was furious with the way the FA's executives behaved and announced earlier that it would "consult across the game" in an effort to learn lessons.

However, there are fears that some members may use the incident to seize more power for the Premier League and the club chairmen. In fairness, the Premier League's chief executive Richard Scudamore - who has firmly ruled himself out of the running to succeed Palios - is not thought to favour such a rapid change.

Nevertheless, moves are already afoot for the "professionals" to assume greater decision-making powers, albeit still within the umbrella of the FA, particularly with regards to the England team and club competitions. There is a precedent for an independent chairman to be appointed for the kind of inquiry the FA board is launching. In athletics, a review was conducted by Andrew Foster, the former head of the national audit office.

The FA confirmed yesterday that both David Beckham and Michael Owen will miss the start of England's build-up to the opening World Cup qualifier in Austria because they have to play for Real Madrid in a friendly match on Tuesday.

Eriksson failed to secure the release of the players, although Madrid have agreed that they will play no more than 45 minutes. The match, against UNAM Pumas of Mexico, will be Owen's first at the Bernabeu. He and Beckham will then fly by private jet to meet up with the rest of the England squad which gathers on Tuesday lunchtime.

The FA's head of media relations, Adrian Bevington, said the players would arrive in time to comply with Fifa regulations. Fifa rules state that players must be available four days before competitive internationals and, with England facing Austria on 4 September in Vienna that means Beckham and Owen must be with the England camp by midnight. Bevington said they will only miss one training session.