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English FA delve into Sven affair

LONDON, England -- English Football Association officials have called a special board meeting after coach Sven Goran Eriksson's affair with an FA secretary left them with red faces.

Embarrassed officials were forced to retract a statement issued last week denying Eriksson's relationship, after reports in a Sunday newspaper.

FA supremo Mark Palios also had a brief liaison with the same employee but chairman Geoff Thompson is 'satisfied' that he was not misled by his chief executive on the issue.

However, Thompson's statement regarding next month's meeting made no mention of Eriksson who is currently away on holiday in Sweden.

"On Monday, on behalf of The Football Association, I instigated an urgent enquiry into the circumstances which led to the FA issuing legal statements based on misleading information," Thompson said.

"I have received categorical assurances from chief executive Mark Palios that he did not mislead or attempt to mislead the FA or its officials. I am satisfied by the chief executive's re-assurances.

"The enquiry remains ongoing and the findings will be submitted to the FA board at a special meeting on August 5, 2004.

"The FA will not be making any further statement until the full facts have been gathered and analysed."

England's governing body for soccer initially issued a statement last week denying that Eriksson -- one of the most highly-paid managers in football on four million pounds a year -- had a relationship with FA secretary Faria Alam.

But over the weekend the FA was forced to acknowledge that both Eriksson and Palios had relationships with her.

'Look like idiots'

"It makes us look like idiots because there was a denial and then we are told that it did happen," FA board member Dave Henson told the Guardian.

"We are left looking like mugs and that can't be right. We have been left high and dry.

"There's so many questions to answer and we will be expecting those to be answered this week. For an outsider looking in, it doesn't paint a good picture."

It is not the first time that Eriksson's activities have received tabloid exposure and two years ago he was revealed to have had an affair with TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson.

Whether or not it transpires that Eriksson misled the FA about the latest affair, the incident provides ammunition for the members who were never happy at having a foreign manager.

There are also those who feel he should not have been given a new multi-million pound contract in March after being photographed meeting Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.

Furthermore, his guidance of England at Euro 2004 was indirectly criticized this week when FA director of football Trevor Brooking lamented the inability of the team to adjust to the loss of Wayne Rooney to injury during their quarterfinal defeat by Portugal.

England's qualification campaign for the 2006 World Cup begins against Austria on September 4, so the FA will be anxious to have the matter sorted out as soon as possible.

Eriksson has always been fiercely protective of his personal life and may decide that this row is the perfect opportunity to end his 3-1/2 year reign in the most high profile job in English sport.

Even if he survives the current row and decides not to quit, a good start to qualifying for the 2006 World Cup next month would now seem essential if he is to stay until the end of his contract in 2008.

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