Sam Allardyce faces a fight to remain at the England helm as the Football Association investigates secretly-filmed conversations which appear to show the recently-appointed manager making a variety of controversial comments to undercover reporters.
Named Roy Hodgson’s successor after the embarrassing Euro 2016 exit to Iceland, the former Bolton, West Ham and Sunderland boss’ position is under enormous scrutiny just 67 days after being handed the role of his dreams.
Allardyce was secretly filmed by the Daily Telegraph’s investigations team during a 10-month probe, which the newspaper claims “separately unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football”.
The video appears to show the 61-year-old making numerous controversial remarks about subjects varying from England players to circumventing regulations, and side work to his employers.
The England manager left his home in Bolton, Greater Manchester, shortly before 7am on Tuesday without comment. By midday The Times and Telegraph were reporting that Allardyce could face the sack later on Tuesday having been summoned to Wembley, where FA chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn are said to be holding an emergency meeting.
The FA has refrained from making any official statement, but Press Association Sport understands such an outcome would not come as a big surprise to some in the England dressing room.
The Telegraph’s video appears to show Allardyce negotiating a £400,000 deal to address investors in a Far East firm, albeit saying he would “have to run it past the powers that be’’ before committing to a deal. The England manager was also captured appearing to tell a fictitious businessman how to circumvent third-party ownership laws, saying it was “not a problem” to get around FA rules which stop third parties ‘’owning’’ football players’ economic rights.
The controversial practice was banned by the FA in 2008 over concerns it compromised the integrity of the game, as the third party could profit whenever a player was sold.
When asked about the rules, Allardyce was filmed on a hidden camera apparently saying: “It’s not a problem”.
He added an unnamed group had been “doing it for years” and “you can still get around it”, suggesting they employ the player’s agents to compensate for the fact they are no longer allowed to profit from each transfer directly.
He added: “You get a percentage of the player’s agent’s fee that the agent pays to you, the company, because he’s done that new deal at the club again or they sell him on, and you’re not getting a part of the transfer fee any more, because you can’t do that.
“But, you get - because of the size of the contracts now, the contract will be worth 30, 40million, at 10 per cent and you’ve done a deal with the agent where you’re getting five per cent of the agent’s fee, which is massive for doing about two hours’ work.”
The footage makes for uncomfortable viewing and former England striker Gary Lineker believes the Telegraph’s clandestine recording could be justified.
“Don’t like entrapment journalism but if it leads to the necessary investigation into the murky waters of corruption in our game then good,” he posted on Twitter.
“We can get on our high horses about FIFA etc. but we have a large glass house of our own.
“Biggest issue for Sam Allardyce is advising on getting around 3rd party rules. As well, of course, as very poor judgement.”
The meeting with reporters also saw Allardyce appear to be filmed questioning predecessor Hodgson’s decisions at Euro 2016, at times calling him “Woy” - a word used in a headline in 2012 that the FA called “unacceptable” and relating to the former England manager’s rhotacism.
On his employers, the FA, the video seems to show the England boss saying: “They’re all about making money aren’t they? You know the FA’s the richest football association in the world?”
He qualified that by saying the governing body is not the richest as “they stupidly spent £870million on Wembley, so they are still paying that debt off’”.
Allardyce called Prince Harry a “very naughty boy” and complained that the Duke of Cambridge, the FA president, did not turn up to last week’s Euro 2020 launch.
The England manager is also reported to have been filmed discussing the gambling habits of the country’s current or former senior internationals, the chances of players lining up for England and Hodgson’s assistant Gary Neville.
Allardyce, who led Sunderland to Premier League survival last season, was appointed England manager on July 22 after what the FA called a “comprehensive and structured process”.
His England reign got off to a winning start earlier this month with a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win in Slovakia. Further qualifiers follow at home to Malta on October 8 and in Slovakia three days later.