Same Allardyce: Sting or Stitch up?

After just 67 days and one game in charge, Sam Allardyce was relieved of his duties as England manager. His position had become untenable after the Daily Telegraph had released a video of a sting operation which appeared to show Allardyce discuss a number of topics with undercover journalists posing as foreign investors. Since the news broke, opinion about the integrity of this investigation and the nature in which it was carried out has been split down the middle. Was this a sting or a stitch up?

The Telegraph revealed that they had been conducting a 10 month investigation into claims that there had been alleged cases of bribery and corruption in British football. Although nobody could argue that this was a noble quest to undertake, given the well publicised corruption scandals involving a number of high ranking FIFA officials over the past year. One could question the relevance of what was actually revealed in the Sam Allardyce tapes.

Firstly, the main headline, was that Allardyce would receive payment for giving a number of talks at intimate functions in Asia, advising foreign investors on how to circumvent the rules regarding third party ownership of footballers. The key word here being circumvent. He is does not appear to suggest, in the video clip at least, that these investors break the rules or go outside of the law, only that there are alternative ways of benefiting financially from player transfers. If there are loopholes in the law which would allow these investors to legally profit from player transfers, then why shouldn’t Allardyce receive payment for passing on his knowledge? The fact that the fee mentioned would appear to be unusually high is irrelevant. Football is a multi billion pound business and although he is on a yearly salary which is thought to be upwards of 3.5 million pounds, he was presented with an opportunity to earn nearly half a million pounds for giving a few speeches.

It is also important to note that at one point in the video clip Allardyce does clearly say that before they sign off on anything, he would have to clear everything with his employers, the FA. Also, when the topic of “Bungs” or paying people to secure business is brought up, you can see that he is visibly uncomfortable with the topic and actually says, “I haven’t heard that. I haven’t heard that, you stupid man. What are you talking about? You idiot. You can have that conversation when I’m not here.”

Allardyce was never given the opportunity to clear everything up with the FA as the video was leaked by the Telegraph almost immediately after it was shot. Also, the issue of third party ownership alone would not have been enough to sink Allardyce. It was his drink fuelled pub talk later in the night about his predecessor Roy Hodgson, the FA and Gary Neville that would be the final nail in his coffin. This is the part that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. If the Telegraphs objective was to expose cases of corruption and bribery in Football then why not just report that? It is obvious from the video that the journalists are purposely steering the conversation in such a way that will lead to Allardyce speaking ill of his colleagues. Although Allardyce does have to accept responsibility for what he said, and was the first to admit that it was a stupid thing for him to say in public, it seems that the only reason that these quotes were included in the report was to reinforce the negative image of Allardyce being portrayed by the Telegraph.

Taken in isolation, it would appear that his comments on circumventing third party ownership laws would not have been enough to cost Allardyce his job. It is in an issue which is often misunderstood but can actually be beneficial to both players and smaller clubs who might not otherwise be able to afford to bring in quality footballers. But by adding fuel to the fire by including the rest of the quotes in their report, the Telegraph ensured that he would be either forced into resignation or relieved of his duties. Given that this sting will undoubtedly damage Big Sam’s reputation irreparably, it is hard not to feel a certain degree of sympathy for the man.

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