An investigation by The Telegraph, revealing dodgy dealings in football, has led to Sam Allardyce stepping down as England manager. The information comprised of videos, captured by an undercover reporter. It showed Allardyce discussing the avoidance of the Football Association (FA) Rules regarding third-party ownership of players, as well as England’s failure at this year’s European Championship and the previous England manager Roy Hodgson. The information surfaced last Monday, with Allardyce formally resigning from his position the following evening—after just one game as England manager.
One video shows Allardyce discussing “ways round” regulations against third-party ownership of footballers, regulations which exist in England and France, with potential investors. Additionally, a further video shows another meeting in which a £400,000-a-year deal is being negotiated for Allardyce to provide information on avoiding third-party ownership.
Third-party ownership is potentially lucrative. It involves a business owning, or part-owning, a player’s economic rights. The level of ownership equates to the level of input on potential transfers, as the business will benefit financially when a player moves clubs. Third-party ownership was banned by the FA in 2008-2009: they believe a club should have full ownership of their players. Instead, bypassing the regulations can be achieved through paying a player’s agent for input in transfer decisions: this is what Allardyce has been caught advocating.
Allardyce is a cult figure in English football, both revered and hated, his brutal honesty and dry humour are highlighted in a number of interviews. His best teams were moulded in his image, solid and hard to break down, direct and lacking superfluous aspects. His latest success was to save an all-but-doomed Sunderland team from Premier League relegation.
The revelations have ravaged his reputation while illustrating a complete absence of integrity. Previously, he was reputed as a stoic member of football’s old guard, a manager since 1991, while also being praised for introducing innovative technology into coaching. He regarded the England job as something he’d always sought after—he only last 67 days in the post. The adages ‘every man has his price’ and ‘money talks’ ring true; Allardyce could not resist the opportunity of extra income, despite earning a £3 million salary to manage England for roughly 10 games a year.
The revelations about Allardyce come as a shock, but not a complete surprise. In 2006, the BBC Panorama team made allegation of corruption against him, suggesting he had accepted bribes to sign players through his son, Craig. Allardyce dismissed the claims and they subsequently fell away. However, in this instance, the evidence is concrete. Allardyce claims “entrapment has won.” This is futile, the lamentation of a greedy, and ultimately defeated, man. If he had any integrity, he would not have been having these sorts of conversations. I suspect Allardyce has been involved in shady dealings for a while, evidently unperturbed by the prestige of being England manager, and seemingly naïve to the heightened scrutiny that follows.
The Telegraph’s revelations have been part of a wider investigation named ‘Football For Sale’, uncovering bribery and misconduct.
At the time of going to print, evidence has emerged showing Leeds owner Massimo Cellino, Queens Park Rangers’ manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and Barnsley assistant boss Tommy Wright involved in either taking bribes or advising on how to avoid FA regulations. Cellino is known for being a shady and extremely erratic character; undercover reporters filmed him offering ownership of 20 per cent of the club as a way of bypassing third-party ownership rules. Hasselbaink was caught discussing a £55,000 fee for his services as an ambassador, with the option of players being sold to his club in return. Tommy Wright was filmed accepting £5,000 in return for his influence on Barnsley transfer exploits; he has subsequently been sacked.
Paul Hayward, The Telegraph’s chief sports reporter, has suggested that “the wider culture of dollar-chasing and rule avoidance” in football has reached a new extreme. The 2006 Stevens report attempted to uncover the “unregulated gold rush” that football has become; it was impotent, and subsequently the problem has evolved.
This modern football culture is an insult to the fans of clubs. It is their hard-earned money, channelled through tickets, TV subscriptions, and club merchandise, which goes into funding this greed. While the influx of big money into football was inevitable and will continue to grow, the shadiness and corruption that currently exists remains unacceptable.
This past week has brought to light football’s corrupt underbelly, with Allardyce the one to take the biggest fall. It is down to the governing bodies, the Football Association, The Union of European Football Association and FIFA—FIFA is well known as being highly corrupt already—to take action. However, I worry that football is already becoming irreversibly damaged.
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