English soccer is embroiled in a sex scandal that has forced the resignation of its chief executive and raised questions about the future of the national team coach.
England's venerable Football Association held crisis meetings Monday to deal with one of the most embarrassing situations in the 140-year history of the institution. The controversy involves separate affairs between the FA's chief executive, and its national team coach, with a 38-year-old staff secretary.
The chief executive, 51-year-old Mark Palios, resigned late Sunday, saying he had done nothing wrong, but wanted the FA to return to normalcy.
The coach, 56-year-old Sven Goren Eriksson of Sweden, did not speak with reporters upon returning to London from Amsterdam on Monday.
But the new acting chief of the FA, David Davies, gave the coach a strong endorsement. "Sven Goran Eriksson is one of the outstanding football coaches in the world," he says. "That's why so many people want to hire him. He has a track record, a consistent record of success, wherever he's worked and, of course, the players - it's not secret - he is very, very popular and highly respected by the players."
The scandal broke two weeks ago when the News of the World newspaper printed allegations of an affair between Eriksson and Faria Alam, a former model who is an FA secretary.
The FA at first denied the story, but later admitted it was true, and said that Palios also had had a brief affair with the woman. Allegations have since emerged that an FA spokesman offered the newspaper details about the Eriksson-Alam affair if the article did not mention Palios.
Eriksson says he never misled the FA about the matter. He faces a hearing by the FA board on Thursday, and could be fired without compensation if found to be lying.
The scandal comes just a month before England begins the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, and just five months after Eriksson signed a contract extension that pays him nearly $7.5 million a year.