The Telegraph just published a massive exclusive showing Sam Allardyce meeting with foreign businessmen, using his position as England manager to negotiate a lucrative consulting gig and indirectly advise them on circumventing FA regulations.
During the meeting, which was recorded by undercover reporters posing as investors, Allardyce discussed Football Association rules and regulations concerning player transfers and how one might get around them in order to make more money.
The meeting took place after Allardyce was appointed the new England manager in the wake of Roy Hodgson’s resignation, but before he held his first training session with the squad earlier this month. Allardyce flew to Hong Kong and Singapore to meet with men he believed represented an East Asian firm looking to break into the football business, enticed by the massive influx of revenue brought on by the Premier League’s new broadcast contract. He then met them again some time later at a restaurant in Manchester.
In reality, the men were investigative journalists conducting a lengthy probe into corruption in British football. While they hadn’t counted on the meeting yielding anything major, they decided to record it anyway, just in case.
While Allardyce doesn’t say anything obviously incriminating— no real “here’s how you should do this” line— but he’s quite candid in explaining that while the FA has rules banning things like third-party ownership, there are still quite a few ways around it for the sufficiently motivated. He referred to the rules regarding third-party ownership “ridiculous” while also refusing to get drawn into detailed discussions on how to circumvent them.
At the earlier meeting in Asia, Allardyce appeared to have discussed a deal whereby he would regularly fly to Singapore and offer consultation to firms wanting to do business in the Premier League’s transfer market. The Telegraph reports this deal would be worth upwards of £400,000— again, all in his capacity as England manager.
Some other, er, highlights from the meetings include Allardyce sharply criticizing the FA’s financing of the Wembley Stadium rebuild, saying that most of their current revenue ends up servicing the £870 million debt from that project. He also offered sharp criticism of his predecessor, Roy Hodgson, as well as his assistant manager, Gary Neville. Allardyce also said England players underperform due to a “psychological barrier” and “can’t cope” with pressure.
The Telegraph says tonight’s article is the first in a series that will run all week detailing their findings from their investigation into bribery and corruption in English football, which they say will implicate officials at several Premier League clubs for conspiring to conduct deals in violation of FA and FIFA regulations for personal gain.
As for Allardyce, there’s not a whole lot here that directly points to impropriety. The £400k consulting deal potentially represents a conflict of interest while he continues to serve as England manager, but it’s not necessarily a sure thing. And his comments on third-party ownership were pretty carefully worded as to avoid implicating himself. Of course, this isn’t Big Sam’sfirst rodeo when it comes to shady dealings, so these allegations don’t come as a huge surprise.
Whether or not there’s sufficient evidence to prove misconduct, this is most certainly a huge PR problem for the Football Association. This is what he said about his employers:
”They’re all about making money aren’t they? You know the FA’s the richest football association in the world? Well, I shouldn’t say that. They’re not the richest at all. What they do is they have the biggest turnover in the world with £325 million.”
And because no British scandal is complete without dragging the Royal Family into it, here’s Big Sam’s thoughts on Prince William, the titular head of the FA:
”The only one that never turned up was Prince William. He’s our ambassador for the Football Association, so it would have been nice if he’d have turned up but he obviously had more, much busier things on.”
If all this— the consulting gig, the criticism of the FA, the wink-wink-nudge-nudge on third-party ownership— doesn’t render Allardyce’s position as England manager untenable, it most certainly puts him on thin ice.