No spare change for Sporting Chance
Fabio Capello is a superb coach. Decisive, determined, dignified - he could end up being the best manager the English national team has ever had.
But is he value for money? Is he worth more than three times what the next best-paid manager in international football is worth? Is he 25 times better than the men in charge of Algeria, Slovenia and the USA (to pick three teams at random out of a large goldfish bowl)?
I bring this up not to criticise the Italian - if that much over the market rate is what the Football Association deemed necessary to get their man, good luck to him. But I wonder what the FA thinks about its negotiating tactics now it has to cancel meetings, freeze hiring and find 10% spending cuts across the board. One of those cuts looks like it might be the £50,000 cheque the FA sends to the Sporting Chance Clinic every year.
Set up by former Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams, the clinic has been helping footballers get over addictions, depression and other personal problems for nearly a decade. But its work is now threatened by uncertainty over the FA's support. That cheque - less than 1% of Capello's annual salary - was due on 1 December and there has been no word of explanation from HQ.
England manager Fabio Capello faces the press with FA chief executive Ian Watmore
"We are still in the dark so I can only assume the worst," said Sporting Chance chief executive Peter Kay.
A lack of communication between the governing and the governed has been a recurring theme of late, and for the second week in a row I have known more (though not much more) about somebody's fate than they did.
Having confirmed the worst to Olympic cyclist Rebecca Romero about her event being scrapped last week, this week I had the dubious pleasure of telling Kay his funding was "under review".
The FA's charity commission met on 7 December to discuss Sporting Chance's grant (among other things) but "reached no decision". They also did not reach for the phone to let anybody at the clinic know.
I'm no Woodward and Bernstein. The FA's press team only told me because I kept pestering them. Kay has not had a straight answer from anybody since he first heard rumours about his funding a few months ago.
"It's apparent we're not high on the FA's list of priorities," Kay said. "They are not interested. They have never come down to see us so they don't have the passion we have for what we do.
"It is a dire situation and I must concentrate on putting together an emergency budget to maintain the basics of our work."
That work is more extensive than the headlines would suggest. As well as the high-profile interventions Sporting Chance has made with the likes of Joey Barton and Paul Gascoigne, the clinic also helps everybody from the academy player with an alcohol problem to a pub footballer who cannot control his temper.
Kay is proud of the work his small team of therapists do, as is Adams, who remains closely involved with the Hampshire-based centre. Having overcome a very public alcohol addiction of his own, the Highbury legend is dismayed at the FA's stance.
He knows only too well that there was a gap in the market before Sporting Chance came along, the prospect of that gap reopening has left Adams fuming: the FA might want to think again if it has plans to use him as an England 2018 ambassador any time soon.
If the evidence of Adams' own story is not compelling enough, football was given an appalling reminder of the demons some of its brightest stars battle with only last month. The suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke shocked fans and players around the world but appears to have made little impact at Wembley.
It was noticed, however, by the Professional Footballers' Association, English football's trade union. Its boss, Gordon Taylor, told me the Enke tragedy only underlined the importance of providing a support network for players with personal problems.
Taylor would not be drawn on the FA's wavering support for Sporting Chance but said the significant funding the PFA provides (close to £200,000) to the clinic is "money well spent".
The continued backing from the union (and their counterparts in Scotland, the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League and Football Foundation) has come as a relief to Kay, without it he said he would be laying staff off before Christmas, but a £50,000 hole in his finances is significant.
Thankfully, Sporting Chance has picked up a few friends along the way. When the aforementioned Barton heard Kay had cancelled an order for a second-hand people carrier the clinic could no longer afford he paid for it himself. It is saying something when the FA (annual turnover £262m) is taught a PR lesson by a man as notorious as Barton.
So how did the sport's custodians get themselves into this mess?
It wasn't that long ago FA chief executive Brian Barwick could look English football in the eye and say 'you've never had it so good'.
"This is the most prosperous period in the history of the FA," crowed Barwick, and with Wembley finally open for business, TV cash pouring in and sponsorship revenues only going up, he was probably right.
Robert Enke's Hannover 96 teammates carry his coffin at a memorial service
For a moment everything seemed possible. An English World Cup bid? No problem. The best manager money can buy? Here's a blank cheque. A National Football Centre? Build the field, they will come.
The downfall of Setanta is the chief cause of its current difficulties (the Irish broadcaster went bust 12 months into a four-year TV deal worth £150m to the governing body) but the overspend associated with Wembley's construction is still a drain on resources. The governing body paid nearly £40m in debt interest last year and has been subsidising the stadium's annual running costs to the tune of almost £15m.
And there are other holes in their pockets. FA Cup sponsor E.ON is not renewing its contract and the FA is still paying the £2.4m annual rent on its former offices in central London. That situation will continue until a new tenant is found.
So just two years after Barwick's boast the "most prosperous period" has passed: national game and nation in harmony.
The outlook, however, has improved in the last month. US media giant ESPN has stepped in to fill the void left by Setanta (although for considerably less, £60-70m, than the Irish broadcaster paid) and Watmore has acted decisively to limit the pain by trimming where possible, the prize fund for the FA Cup, for example.
But this comes as scant consolation to Adams and Kay. Losing a significant chunk of funding is one thing: not being considered important enough to hear it straight is another.