We’re still in the immediate fallout from the news that sent English football reeling and led to Sam Allardyce leaving his job as England manager after just 67 days in charge.
Earlier today, Allardyce spoke to his reporters outside his home in Bolton. While his tone was generally contrite and the details he offered sparse, he did have one or two interesting things to say.
The comment that probably stands out the most is his reference to “entrapment,” implying that he was possibly induced into taking the meeting and making comments that created, at the very least, a major PR problem for the Football Association.
“Entrapment” is typically only applicable in criminal cases as a defense against liability. While things like sting operations carry some genuine ethical concerns, British law has an established legal precedent governing entrapment. As far as journalism is concerned, the question of where and when investigations cross the line remains a key ethical quandary.
But there’s a lot of gray area here, especially when there isn’t necessarily an allegation of criminal liability, as with Allardyce. Big Sam didn’t really do anything illegal, nor did he do anything even hinting at conspiracy to break any laws. The faint whiff of impropriety in this case, at worst, would just violate certain provisions in his contract with the FA. Mostly though, Allardyce created a PR problem for his employers and, arguably, brought his organization into disrepute. None of which constitute crimes, which makes his claim of entrapment very curious.
Allardyce walks a very thin line here. On the one hand, he wants to sound like he’s taking responsibility and trying not to burn every bridge with the FA. On the other hand, his claim of entrapment, and insisting he only took the meeting as a favor to a friend, undermines his otherwise conciliatory tone by subtly suggesting that maybe he isn’t entirely to blame after all.
Which, frankly, doesn’t square with the basic facts of the case. Nobody made Allardyce take that meeting. Nobody induced him to comment, with no pretense of actionable advice but with a perceptible wink and nod, that getting around FA regulations on player transfers is not only possible but profitable. No one pressured him into maligning his employers or his predecessor. Nobody goaded him into casting aspersions on the Duke of Cambridge.
Allardyce has made it clear that the England job was his dream come true, the top of the mountain in his professional life and the culmination of more than 20 years’ work as a football manager. And in just over two months (and one game in charge) he managed to throw it all away in pursuit of a lucrative side hustle. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the guy, but let’s be clear here— Allardyce brought this on himself. If he cared so much about being England manager and making the most of this singular opportunity, he never should’ve taken that meeting, or said or done anything that would’ve carried even the faintest hint of impropriety.
In the end, people are chosen for the job of England manager, in large part, because of their sense of judgment. Regardless of his liability (or lack thereof), Allardyce finally won the job he had spent a decades-long career preparing for and found himself incapable of doing it, because he couldn’t fulfill the biggest requirement of the position— good judgment.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph’s investigation continues, and has implicated as many as eight Premier League managers in a widespread bribery scandal. The managers are as-yet unnamed, but it’s only a matter of time before identities are revealed and this latest crisis in English football goes from bad to worse.