By Norman 14
Re the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee enquiry into The Governance of Football – the Committee questioning of Greg Clarke, Chairman, The Football Association, and Robert Sullivan, Director of Governance and Regulation, The Football Association.
There are 40 pages of transcript, and most of the questions relate either to Allardyce or Football Agents.
Nearly all the questions asked of the FA Chairman are answered with either (1) It (Allardyce’s appointment) was made before he came into office or (b) He didn’t know.
One would assume that if you are the Chairman of an organisation whose governance had been brought into serious question by the media, resulting in the departure of a senior member of your staff, then you might just ask a few questions before heading off to the MPs’ enquiry. Especially as that “departed” member of staff had been the subject of serious allegations before, with some questions from those allegations, remaining unanswered.
Moving to the actual questioning, here is a snippet of an exchange between panel member Jason McCartney and Greg Clarke, (relating to the termination of Alardyce’s contract):
Jason McCartney: Was his contract terminated immediately?
Greg Clarke: No. His contract was terminated by mutual consent.
Jason McCartney: Was there a financial settlement?
Greg Clarke: There was.
Jason McCartney: How much?
Greg Clarke: I cannot tell you. It is a confidentiality agreement.
How come, a private organisation, under investigation by the government, hides behind a confidentiality agreement, when asked how much (taxpayer) funded compensation was paid to an employee of that organisation who was effectively dismissed for misconduct?
However, the cream of the crop in this “Enquiry” is to be found in the questions relating to Allardyce’s appointment as England manager, and his previous with controversy, highlighted by the 2006 Panorama programme and the subsequent Stevens Report.
Chair: It is fair to say there has never been a follow-up investigation following Lord Stevens’ report and the publication of his summary and recommendations. Regarding then the appointment of Sam Allardyce, Quest Ltd [the strategic intelligence and risk mitigation service who conducted the inquiry with Lord Stevens] said that at the time said they held 100 boxes of material relating to the investigation. Before the decision was made to appoint Sam Allardyce as the England manager, was contact made by the FA back to Quest to go through any of that evidence in the investigation relating to him in particular?
Greg Clarke: I am afraid I do not know the answer to that because I was not Chairman of the FA at the time. I was not part of the board that made that decision. We have not had a board meeting since because we have a board meeting monthly, and the episode with Sam Allardyce was two and a half weeks ago. My understanding from informal conversations with some board members is that significant inquiries were made of the clubs in the Premier League that Sam Allardyce had been manager of, and also he is a board member of the LMA, and inquiries were made there as well. No significant issues emerged as of those inquiries, but I cannot assure you that diligence was applied to the Stevens report because I was not there, but we can come back to you on that.
Chair: Presumably, yes. Mr Sullivan, you were at the FA at the time. Are you aware if any approach was made to Lord Stevens or to Quest?
Robert Sullivan: No, I am not aware of that. What I would like to say on the Stevens report, though, is there were many recommendations that were acted upon in terms of improvements and enhancements to the regulation of the game, and I think that is important to say. While you may say it was not followed through, I think there were a lot of actions taken around how we regulate the intermediary market, the rules both at the Premier League and FA level.
Chair: That is fine. We will come on to some of those things later on, but this first point is quite important. In some ways, the Stevens inquiry was never closed because, although his work stopped, the issues and concerns that he raised with regard to those transfers have never been resolved. It has been left by football unanswered. That is why it is interesting to ask if there have been allegations made about Sam Allardyce through that programme, and what due diligence did the FA do to satisfy itself that there were no skeletons hiding in the closet and there was nothing that might cause future embarrassment? You would imagine the first thing you might do, if you were Chairman of the FA, is go back to Quest and go back to Lord Stevens and say, “We are thinking of making this appointment. What do you think?” Do you think that should have happened, Mr Clarke?
Greg Clarke: I am assured by board members that I have talked to that they did due diligence and spoke to a lot of people about Mr Allardyce, and I make two points. First, I think the FA pursued the allegations as far as they could, because Lord Stevens came back and said, “I cannot trace this any further because they are offshore bank accounts, and the people who own those bank accounts will give me no more information”. He recommended we escalate the matter to FIFA. We escalated the matter to FIFA. FIFA declined to deal with it because they said that the allegations had timed out.”
Chair: You will let us know whether the FA contacted Quest. I think that would have been the first place that the FA would have asked.
Greg Clarke: I am happy to. Q6
Chair: Did the FA make any attempt to contact the investigatory team that worked on the “Panorama” programme?
Greg Clarke: I do not know the answer to that either.
Chair: Again, as you would appreciate, investigative journalists compile their story. It goes through all sorts of legal checking before it is broadcast but they may have lots of other relevant information as well. Given that Sam Allardyce and his son were so central to that programme, again, that is somewhere you might have expected the FA would have gone as part of its due diligence, but you do not know whether they did?
Greg Clarke: I do not know whether they did. I will know in the near future because, as a board, we will discuss this. In informal conversations, I was told that extensive inquiries were made. I did not have the time to go through a complete checklist, and we are happy to revert on that.
Chair: I have been told by the producers who worked on that programme that no one has ever attempted to contact any of that team regarding the Sam Allardyce allegation, so for me that would be an area where I would be concerned that the sort of due diligence you might have expected on the appointment was lacking.
Mr Harrison was one of the key figures who featured in the “Panorama” investigation in 2006. In a case like that, did the FA follow up with Mr Harrison and ask him if he would come in and discuss the allegations he had made?
Greg Clarke: It is before my time but I would be amazed if we did not….”
Chair: You will be amazed in that case because I understand that no one contacted Mr Harrison from the Football Association regarding the very serious allegations he made in The Mail. It has just been left hanging there and no one has followed up on it. That is what I understand from the man who was central to the allegations himself.
Robert Sullivan: Did he bring that information forward to the FA himself? He clearly made the point to the national media, but if he—
Chair: If you have this fantastic in-house capability with former police officers, for them to just look at reports in the press and say, “Well, that looks suspicious. Someone has made incredibly serious allegations of a breach in the rules. This is someone who has been at the heart of other investigations in the past. Maybe we should give him a call”. He is not difficult to find.”
What is really interesting is that this committee of MP’s, who have extremely busy schedules outside of their committee work, appear to know more about what is going on than do either the Chairman or Director of Governance and Regulation, of The Football Association.
There is so much more information within the “Oral Evidence – The Governance of Football”, that people should read the whole transcript, and make their own observations about what has been said.
Indeed there is a particularly eye-opening exchange relating to allegations made in 2014, by Jason Puncheon, about Neil Warnock. But, the most relevant observation is, basically, that the FA is accused of being “not fit for purpose” although the “witnesses” deny this most vehemently. Add to this, the recent article on Untold relating to Sammy Lee – they are probably on the right track.
Finally, amazingly, Greg Clarke asked for, and was granted a year to report back to the committee on his internal review. We all know how that went with an enquiry involving Philip Green!