By Tony Attwood
You will almost certainly know (at least if you live in England) that the manager of the England football team is today accused of telling people whom he thought were Far East businessmen that it was possible to “get round” the rules about third-party player ownership.
Various issues immediately jump out: one is that surely after all the stings and revelations run by the Sun and other newspapers in which their journalists are dressed up like sheikhs and men from distant shores, every person with an IQ above 10 knows not to talk tittle tattle about scams and schemes with foreign businessmen. Whatever the truth of the allegations being revealed, it shows the England manager as phenomenally stupid and lacking all form of judgement.
Second, the England manager has a lot of form in this sort of area having been named (when manager of Bolton) in the 2006 corruption scandal investigation along with his son (a football agent). Allardyce repeatedly let it be known that he was going to sue the BBC but never did.
To give a brief summary, in September 2006 the BBC broadcast “Undercover: Football’s Dirty Secrets” including films of meetings between agents, managers and club officials, showing agents and managers taking bribes and tapping up players. Allardyce and son were accused of taking bribes, Redknapp was shown having tapping-up discussions, Kevin Bond of Newcastle admitted on film he would consider illegal payments, Frank Arnesen of Chelsea is shown tapping up Nathan Porrit and Liverpool officials were implicated.
Peter Harrison, an agent, stated that he bribed Sam Allardyce and the programme also stated that three Bolton transfers involved secret payments to Allardyce’s son. They were damning allegations.
Third, given the 2006 issue has never been resolved and Allardyce has never initiated any legal proceedings against the BBC, we cannot say Mr A was guilty but we can note that when a man is accused of such serious crimes taking place at the heart of his profession and refuses to clear his name in the courts, it leaves the question: why? I stress, it does not mean he is guilty, but it would be good to know why Allardyce would say the matter was proceeding, and then for nothing to happen.
Fourth in such circumstances, why did the FA appoint him? A man who swears blind that he is suing one of the biggest organisations in the UK, and then doesn’t and leaves the most serious of allegations unresolved, is surely a risk when placed in the highest job in English football.
All we have from that time however is the statement that, “I have had lengthy discussions with my lawyers and they have advised me that I have a very strong case in relation to the Panorama programme.
“I have therefore instructed them to prepare my case against the BBC, whom I am planning to sue over the false and highly damaging allegations which they broadcast.” The FA then asked the BBC to provide all of the information it obtained during their investigation with a spokesperson saying, “The corporation emphasised that it is keen to help the relevant authorities with their investigations and a proper process has now been put in place.”
Now once again the FA is left asking a news organisation for details of things it should have sorted out itself years before.
In his latest case Allardyce has been caught on tape saying it was “not a problem” to bypass the rules his own organisation had introduced in 2008 saying he knew of certain agents who were “doing it all the time” (quite possibly one of whom might be his son) and added: “You can still get around it. I mean obviously the big money’s here.”
Allardyce will probably bluster a bit and then say, he was merely giving a personal view of the sport, although that will still leave the question of whether a man charged with such serious acts before who chose not to defend himself properly then, can be believed now. Also it raises the question, if he knows about these people why is he not telling his bosses to act.
On the tape Allardyce insults Roy Hodgson calling him “Woy” but elsewhere in one bit of the conversation he strayed into reality calling the spending of huge sums of money the FA did not have on rebuilding Wembley “stupid”. He also described Gary Neville as someone who should be told to “sit down and shut up”.
So what will the FA do? Probably nothing, because that is what organisations that run football mostly do, and the FA has a vast amount of form in terms of doing bugger all.
Of course it is not just the FA that has been incredibly stupid in employing Allardyce. Stupidity seems to be a pre-requisite for being involved in football. For at the same time as the latest Allardyce allegations have emerged Fifa has decided nothing more needs to be done about racism in football. Just three years after Blatter said that racist comments on the pitch could be resolved by the players shaking hands at the end of a game, it has wound up its anti-racist unit saying it had achieved what it set out to do.
There has often been comments made that the anti-racism task force was only there to make it look like Fifa was doing something and to thus enhance Fifa’s image. But this is another sign that those now running Fifa really do think that the problems that beset Fifa at the end of the Blatter era, are now resolved and it is all plain sailing.
What links Fifa and Allardyce here is that both the organisation and the man act in a way that suggests that they can do anything they like and get away with it. The accusations against Allardyce made in the 2006 scandal are still there, still hanging in the air, but he feels he can just continue doing his thing, saying what he wants while feeling that most reporters who ought to be looking into his past won’t do anything much. Fifa likewise believe the past can be brushed aside.
But clearly, in targeting Allardyce, the Telegraph knew they were onto something – after all newspapers don’t go around setting up these situations and making offers to all and sundry waiting for one of them to trip up. They know who they are after.
That doesn’t prove Allardyce guilty of course, but it does show up how incredibly stupid the FA were to give him the job. The FA knew about all the past allegations against Allardyce and his son and they knew that Allardyce had not just threatened legal action against the BBC but had said it was actually happening. And then he did nothing. That marks a person out.
As for Fifa, the anti-racism programme was never given real support and indeed in many ways was constantly undermined by the tiny fines that were given both by Fifa and Uefa to clubs and associations after gross exhibitions of racism in football grounds around the world.
As the Guardian has pointed out in relation to the racism issue, “the most recent research from the Moscow-based Sova Center and the Uefa‑affiliated Fare Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons combined.”
But let’s give the last word to the manager of England. Here’s one bit quoted today in the Daily Mail speaking 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 £325m.’
Concerning third party ownership of players he said it was not a problem and that it was how he bought Enner Valencia to West Ham United commenting, ‘He was third party owned when we bought him from Mexico.’
That is an interesting historic allegation against a Premier League club which the league ought to consider further. The FA banned third party ownership in 2008. Fifa banned it in 2015. Valencia was brought to WHU in 2014.