The House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport last week met with Football Association (FA) bosses to discuss the recent football corruption scandal. They reviewed the allegations that cost Sam Allardyce his job as England manager and wider corruption allegations in football.
The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Damian Collins, said the lack of appropriate questioning before Allardyce’s appointment to England manager could be considered “institutional failure”. Allardyce was investigated as part of the 2006 BBC Panorama investigation into football corruption. The investigation was found four suspect transfers which concerned Allardyce. This did not dissuade the FA from appointing Allardyce as England boss in July.
Collins was forthright in his assessment: “The FA appointed a manager who was a central figure in the biggest ever investigation initiated by football into improper payments and bungs. I don’t believe the FA spoke to Quest or Lord Stevens [who led the investigation] before the appointment and to not be able to ascertain whether it was discussed with him before the appointment was made—I think a lot of people would find that astonishing.”
The committee also heard that Allardyce received a payoff from the FA, rumoured to be in the region of £1m, which they found to be “extraordinary” considering the circumstances of his departure.
Summarising, Collins mentioned comments by former Manchester United chief executive David Gill, who is on the board of the FA, who said that no one had seen the Allardyce situation coming: “I think lots of people saw this coming and it was only the FA that didn’t.”
Later in the meeting Collins used his parliamentary privilege, which grants legal immunity, to repeat allegations against Cardiff City Neil Warnock that date back to 2014. These allegations were first brought to public attention by the Crystal Palace player Jason Puncheon. In tweets which were later deleted, Puncheon said, “What I won’t accept is an opinion from a man who’s crooked and ruining the game. The man who signs players, gives them extra wages and appearance bonuses to make sure they pay him to get into the team or on the bench.” He was later fined £15,000 and apologised to Warnock.
When asked about why the FA did not contact Puncheon regarding the allegations, FA Director of Strategy Robert Sullivan stated that the case was lacking “hard evidence” so further action could not be taken. Warnock later responded to the allegations being brought up again in parliament. He stressed that the allegations were “completely and utterly false”. He continued, “The FA Commission considered all of the evidence in detail in 2014 and it found that the allegations which were published about me were unfounded. Any suggestion that the FA failed to investigate this matter is simply untrue.”
A damning assessment in parliament and fresh corruption questions does not help English football, at a time when faith in the FA is at an all time low.