England’s fall from grace

English football has lost its moral high ground. (File photo: Reuters)

As Sam Allardyce saw it, ‘entrapment’ cost him his job as England national team manager. The disgraced coach admitted that advising undercover reporters posing as businessmen on how to “get around” player transfer rules was a “silly thing to do,” but it was clear he believed himself to be the unfortunate victim of the Daily Telegraph’s sting operation.

Whether or not Allardyce’s position as England manager was untenable as The FA (English Football Association) ultimately decided last week, claims of corruption have brought the reputation of the country’s favorite game into disrepute. Faith in the sport has been shaken to its core. Trust between those in football and those watching it has never been more frayed.

But while claims of corruption in English football are indeed concerning, with the Daily Telegraph’s report implicating as many as eight current Premier League managers, they certainly aren’t surprising. It’s been suspected for quite some time that an underlying current of corruption ran under the sport. Now that has been proved and there will surely be more revelations to come.

Sad indictment

With such wealth swilling around the Premier League and the upper echelons of the English game, it’s perhaps inevitable that corruption would seep in. That is a sad indictment on the nature of top-level competition and the sport.

Money so often brings out the worst in the human character. Allardyce was already tied to a £3 million contract as England manager, yet he still jeopardised his career to chase an additional £400,000 by offering some misguided advice to some dubious businessmen. Some call it greed, but this is the way of the football world. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but it does make all that has come to the surface over the past few weeks unsurprising.

English football has lost its moral high ground. The country has long liked to position itself as the precedent of virtue and decency, keeping corruption at arm’s length, but that image was well and truly scrubbed out with Allardyce’s departure as national team boss.

FA in the dock

“To some extent, the FA are in the dock as well because they have lectured Fifa, they have lectured Uefa about making sure that there’s a better governance of the game; that they clean their act up,” Labour politician Richard Caborn commented in light of Allardyce’s disgraced exit, illustrating how claims of corruption in English football now transcend the sport.

In years gone by allegations of corruption have gone unchecked and unchallenged, with Allardyce allowed to take the England job in the first place despite an unresolved BBC investigation into whether he took bungs from agents still hanging over him. Self-preservation and self-interest matters more than anything else.

The fractured system between FIFA and individual football associations and league bodies has permitted corruption on a mass scale in the sport. There is simply too much grey area for the corrupt to envelop themselves in, making it difficult for football to hold such figures to account, difficult to find them guilty of anything other than immoral practice. Allardyce broke no rules by advising those business of how to circumvent FA rules. He lost his job only by acting unethically for a figure of his standing.

Tackling the epidemic

English football must tackle the epidemic which threatens to undermine everything. Too often earlier, it has turned a blind eye to the wrong blatantly occurring right in from of us all. The first bungs in England were investigated way back in 1995 and yet only now is the sport starting to confront a problem that has long compromised its integrity.

Of course, in the modern age it’s a lot more difficult to counter corruption than it was in the days of Brian Clough, when his assistant at Nottingham Forest Ronnie Fenton once drove to Hull to collect £45,000 in cash which arrived on an Icelandic trawler along with an Icelandic footballer. Football’s black market is sophisticated and will take more than just the dismissal of Allardyce as England manager to bring it down. The sport in general finds itself at a pivotal juncture, but the past few weeks must be seen as only the beginning of a recovery that has been a long time in coming.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48