Former England boss Sam Allardyce did, in his own words, a “silly thing” by talking to undercover reporters masquerading as businessmen.
Had it been any other football management position, he probably wouldn’t have been given the boot but the England role is direct with the FA, whose player transfer rules he advised on “getting around”.
For what it is worth I still think he’d have done a good job if given the chance but that is neither here nor there really now, and I doubt the likely candidates (Gareth Southgate, Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew and Eddie Howe at the moment) are an upgrade. Again that’s a moot point and the only real option was to part company; his position had become untenable regardless of your viewpoint on his actions with those undercover journalists.
There are a lot of points to consider in this whole mess but I’m going to keep this fairly brief and focus solely on the journalistic methods used.
Was the Telegraph’s use of subterfuge, or to borrow from Sam Allardyce ‘entrapment’, justified?
That’s a big question but without knowing any more I’m going to have to stay on the fence and here’s why.
Entrapment as a form of journalism can be as – or more – seedy than the thing it is trying to expose. Consider the ongoing Fake Sheik trial as an example, where Sun journalist Mazher Mahmood is accused of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of Tulisa Contostavlos.
This case may be a little different depending on what The Telegraph have unearthed further. They claim they have eight current and former Premier League managers accused of taking ‘bungs’ to facilitate deals, in something perhaps more serious than Allardyce’s indiscretions.
Whether or not the newspaper’s actions are justifiable depends on what information they had in the first place to act, or whether it was simply a ‘fishing’ exercise. If they had good reason then this was probably the only way to get the proof they needed, if they just threw some bait out there looking for a bite… that’s questionable behaviour at best. Maybe we’ll never really know the answer to this and as such what happens next is vital.
It reminds me of The Times’ sting earlier this year on doping. The case involving the ‘doping doctor’ Mark Bonar, which didn’t really come to anything near what was promised in the original expose. That suggested around 150 elite sports stars, or a percentage of, would be unveiled as dopers but it just didn’t happen.
Because there’s supposedly much more to come I’m going to take a ‘wait and see’ approach regarding The Telegraph’s methods here. If, as they promise, they uncover widespread corruption within British football in regards to transfer dealings, third party ownership, bungs, bribes, pay-offs etc etc then their methods will have been justified. If it all fizzles out to nothing and Allardyce was in actual fact their mother load, quite a few people are going to feel pretty short changed by this whole debacle.
I’ll come back to this when we know a bit more, let’s see what The Telegraph comes up with.
The original Telegraph article.
And more from The Telegraph.
Gonzo article on Allardyce prior to his appointment.