England have hit rock bottom. Just when you thought things could not get any worse. Following another abject tournament failure, Sam Allardyce, the man charged with reviving an ailing England side, has been sent packing after only 67 days.
A willingness to circumvent his own employers’ rules about third-party ownership of players is always going to land you in hot water and, after Allardyce was caught by an under-cover reporter offering advice on how to get around transfer rules, the FA took the only course of action it could.
It is hard to remember a time when English football’s fortunes were on an even footing and now we are the laughing stock of the entire sporting community. This latest debacle comes with worrying baggage though and you get the sense that both the after effects and deeper ramifications will take some time to dissipate.
At a first glance it would be easy to put Allardyce’s actions down to naivety. After all, it makes little sense to dispense with a manager so soon after appointing him, especially with a shortlist that is virtually non-existent when it comes to credible candidates to fill the void. But the FA had to make a statement.
They have long been the self-proclaimers of the ‘respectable’ side of the game, the ones ready to stand up and stamp out football’s ills, and they would have been chastised had they not taken the decision to dispense with the 61-year-old. Yet what is even more disturbing is the acknowledgement from those within the game that this is not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corruption. Football has long had a problem with fair play and the increase in money has not helped one iota.
Match fixing remains a problem in several leagues in Europe; co-ownership was only abolished in Italy in 2014, while astronomical agents fees encourage dodgy deals that try to find loopholes and exploit the system. The Daily Telegraph’s report that leaked the story in the first place has indicted up to seven other Premier League managers. Elsewhere, Barnsley have since sacked assistant manager Tommy Wright, while Southampton are investigating their assistant Eric Black over similar allegations.
To say we are surprised by the scale of the problem would be a lie but this culture of greed is now, whether we like it or not, indelibly marked on the game and it is a sad indictment of where football is right now.
Not short of losing its credibility, it also raises a trust issue, and the moment we begin to question the game is the moment football risks losing its biggest advocates. Allardyce has to come to terms with the realisation that he made a grave error of judgement unbecoming of someone as experienced as he is.
It has also tarnished Big Sam’s reputation within the game and, while it is unclear if he will be allowed to manage again, do not be surprised if this finishes off his career before he is allowed to return.
Allardyce brought the game and the organisation he represented into disrepute. Let’s not beat around the bush. His actions may have woken the governing bodies of the game from their collective slumber, but now is the time for action. It is no good saying this is an isolated incident: action is required, and fast. Failure to heed these warnings is a sign of complicity, the kind football can ill afford.
Allardyce may have thrown away what he defined as his dream job, but football as a whole stands to lose far more if we do not get a grip of what can only be termed as a corruption epidemic.
Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland