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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 August, 2004, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Palios' annus horribilis
By John May

England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and FA chief executive Mark Palios
Pity the poor Football Association.

Its year so far has made the Queen's famous annus horribilis seem like the tea running out at a Palace garden party in comparison.

From Rio Ferdinand's missed drugs test in September 2003 to the current inquiry into the handling of Sven-Goran Eriksson's reported affair, it has been a catalogue of disasters.

Will the resignation of chief executive Mark Palios draw a line under the FA's woes?

We look back at its 12 months of misery.

BUNGLE

Whenever the FA have been faced with a big issue, they have handled it with all the professional aplomb of Laurel and Hardy attempting to carry a grand piano up a flight of stairs.

Top of the show, was Riogate.

From the moment it took the FA more than a week to inform Manchester United of Sport England's notification that Ferdinand had failed to show for a drugs test, the whole affair slid downhill.

It prompted the farcical delay in naming England's squad for the Euro 2004 game in Turkey, supposedly caused by Michael Owen's 'injury'.

The FA at least showed spine in facing down the threatened players strike, but people were entitled to ask how it got that far in the first place and had not been nipped in the bud.

Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand
Riogate left a bad taste all round

Ferdinand's eventual sentence was a master class in fudging, its length both enough to have Manchester United claiming it was "brutal and savage" and sufficient to stop Fifa stepping in because it was too lenient.

Rightly or wrongly, it also hamstrung Eriksson in his Euro 2004 selection, reinforcing any feelings he might have harboured that his employers were tying two hands behind his back.

The FA's hokey-cokey with Alan Smith was for more embarrassing than anything your dad might come up with at a wedding.

In, out and shaken all about was Smith's lot as the FA allowed him to be picked for England's friendly against Denmark before tugging him out.

Their laudable policy of not allowing anyone charged with a criminal offence to pull on an England shirt was negated by the inept handling of the incident.

ZIPPY

To outsiders, the FA's Soho Square HQ must resemble one of Nero's noisier nights in.

That perception has come about because of the FA's ham-fisted handling of Sven-Goran Eriksson's reported affair.

A Watergate-style inquiry into who was at fault over the FA's embarrassing U-turn has increased speculation that dark forces are at work with the intention of prising Eriksson out of office.

Revelations in the News of the World that the FA was prepared to provide the newspaper with details of Eriksson's alleged affair have done little to dispel this image.

The FA's head of communications Colin Gibson is reported to have proposed a deal in which specific details relating to Eriksson would be supplied.

In return, the FA are reported to have demanded that the organisation's chief executive Mark Palios - also said to have had an affair with the same FA secretary - was left out of the paper's coverage.

In the wake of those claims, Palios stepped down after a year at the helm. He promised exciting times were ahead when he took over - and he was right.

ST GEORGE

Almost obscured behind this is the fact that England again bombed in a major tournament.

England fans show their dismay in Portugal
Another major tournament, another England failure

Was the preparation for Euro 2004 ideal? Were players entirely comfortable that the FA would be firmly behind them?

The bottom line is that England failed again because they lacked the tactical nous to kill off a game before they went into another penalty shoot-out.

That in itself is enough to prompt questions of the coach.

RAINBOW?

The FA often finds itself in between a rock and a hard place.

Its responsibility to administer the game and set an example to all from the grass roots up, inevitably brings conflict with the multi-millionaire professionals at the top end.

The FA also has the unenviable task of doing all this, while having to satisfy the gaping maw of an increasingly voracious media.

The events of the last year have damaged sympathy for the organisation, however.

Perhaps the best hope is that those who look to the FA for leadership will see the game's governing body taking a long, hard look at itself.

The departure of Palios, with Gibson having also offered to quit, may be the start of that process.




VOTE RESULTS
Do you trust the FA to run English football properly?
Yes - this is just a storm in a teacup
12%
No - they are bungling bosses
60%
Don't care - as long as the England team are successful
28%
64107 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed


SEE ALSO
Sven-Goran Eriksson timeline
27 Jul 04  |  Internationals
FA confirms England coach affair
25 Jul 04  |  UK News


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