Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Sven-Göran Eriksson was given the go-ahead on Thursday to continue as England coach after being cleared of wrongdoing by the Football Association's board in the crisis triggered by his affair with a FA secretary.

The board decided there was "no case" for Eriksson to answer after a near six-hour meeting in a London hotel.

It also accepted the resignation of Colin Gibson, communications director - the second victim of the scandal - who had offered to stand down after a newspaper printed a transcript of a conversation in which he volunteered information about Eriksson's affair in return for silence over FA chief executive Mark Palios's relationship with the same woman. Palios resigned on Sunday following publication of the transcript.

Accepting that the episode had been "regrettable" for the reputation of English football, the board said it was resolved to see management "deficiencies" exposed by the saga corrected.

An immediate review would be instituted. In the meantime two leading FA figures, Dave Richards and Roger Burden, had been appointed to support under-fire chairman Geoff Thompson in his role of leading the organisation.

On Faria Alam, the woman with whom Eriksson and Palios had affairs, the board said it had decided it was "not appropriate to make any public statement with regard to her role in this inquiry".

The meeting was called to consider a report prepared by Eversheds, the FA's legal adviser, into why misleading statements were issued about Eriksson's relationship with Alam.

Those hoping that the meeting would draw a line under a profoundly damaging episode in the FA's chequered history look destined to be disappointed, however. For one thing, the body will be braced for more embarrassing revelations following the disclosure that Alam, who on Thursday night tendered her resignation from the body, has approached the publicist Max Clifford with a view to selling her side of the story.

There must also be serious concerns about how the affair will affect the England team, which is due to face Ukraine in a friendly international in less than two weeks' time.

The 5-1 win in Munich aside, England's results in Eriksson's three-and-a-half year reign may not have been startling, but they have been good enough to keep the wolves at bay.

There has been criticism of certain of his tactical decisions and of his occasional lack of fire, but, aside from those who oppose him simply for not being English, he has not been subjected to the sort of vindictive scrutiny that marked much of Bobby Robson's reign and undermined both Graham Taylor and Kevin Keegan.

Eriksson now, though, stands as a man exposed. The FA may have extended and improved his contract following his dalliance with Chelsea, but three months later - notwithstanding Thursday’s verdict, which some will attribute to the high cost that a decision to fire him would probably have incurred - the organisation appears to have remarkably little faith in him.

Were England to draw - or, heaven forbid, lose either of the World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Poland in September, there would inevitably be calls for Eriksson's head, and that is not a situation he has faced with England before.

Even when it was suggested he had caved in to player power in abandoning the diamond for a flat midfield four, he was basically swimming with the tide, but no more.

The question then is how that pressure will affect his relationship with the squad. In the short term, it may even strengthen an already strong bond.

Football is a culture that loves its siege mentality. The players, after all, were so outraged by the rigid line Palios took over Rio Ferdinand's missed drugs test that they threatened to strike. Eriksson supported the players in that incident and his loyalty seemed to earn the players' loyalty in return.

The longer term, though, could be more problematic. Eriksson is not a lame duck, but a couple of poor results could weaken his position to the extent that it becomes less a question of if his contract will be terminated than when.

Players throughout history have shown little inclination to give their all for a manager who is evidently on the way out.

And that, ultimately, is the issue. No matter who fumbled and who bungled, the farce of the last few weeks will be but a footnote to England's football history so long as they reach the World Cup finals in Germany.

Get alerts on Phone hacking when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article