London - England fans who thought their football could sink no lower than being knocked out of the recent Euro Cup by Iceland were proven wrong recently when the country’s football association announced it had ended the contract of national team manager Sam Allardyce.
The day started with an exposé in a national daily newspaper, which reported that Allardyce was prepared to meet foreign businessmen to discuss with them the possibility of bypassing the English transfer regulations prohibiting third-party ownership of players.
It was further reported that the former Sunderland manager had agreed to be paid a fee of £400 000 (about R7.1m) to represent the company that the businessmen said they were from and for speaking engagements in the Far East.
The England Football Association issued a statement in which it said the contract with Allardyce had been terminated with immediate effect.
“Allardyce’s conduct was inappropriate for an England manager. He accepts he made a significant error of judgment and has apologised. However, due to the serious nature of his actions, the football association and Allardyce have mutually agreed to terminate his contract with immediate effect,” the association said.
Allardyce, who will go into the record books for having had the shortest tenure as a manager of England’s team, having been in charge for just one game (a 1-0 victory against Slovenia in a World Cup qualifier) and for 67 days, said that, on reflection, it was a silly thing for him to have done.
“I wanted to help somebody I had known for 30 years, but it was an error of judgment on my part and I have paid the price. Entrapment has won on this occasion and I have to accept that.”
Will Cope, who is course leader in sports journalism at Solent Southampton University and who works for a number of English media outlets, said that the term “entrapment” was not appropriate in this case.
“Even if the journalists were posing as businessmen, which clearly they were not, I don’t think one can really speak of entrapment.
“There have long been rumours going around that there is corruption in football and I think we have seen there is some truth to this. The journalists obviously just followed this up.
“Of course, you have to feel some compassion for him [Allardyce].
“Never before has an England manager looked so pleased after being given the job.
“But he was the architect of his own downfall and, though he did nothing wrong legally, it was impossible for the association to keep him on.”
This unexpected turn of events means the England Football Association is in the difficult situation of having to find a new manager.
Officials said that Gareth Southgate, who was in charge of the England Under-21 side, would be in charge for the next four matches against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain.
The allegations against Allardyce were just one aspect of the ongoing corruption investigation by the newspaper, and although the fate of the 61-year-old, who spent much of his playing career with Bolton Wanderers, was by far the biggest fall-out, other officials and managers have been implicated.
Eric Tinkler’s former club Barnsley have fired their assistant coach Tommy Wright, with others possibly following.