In case you missed it, Sam ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce has left his position as our new England manager, only 67 days after first being appointed and less than 24 hours after The Telegraph reported his role in trying to help foreign businessmen get around and break FA regulations regarding player ownership (whilst also trash-talking the FA, Wembley, the England squad and his predecessor, Roy Hodgson). Now, this may seem like a funny story, which it is in terms of how little time he lasted at his dream job, but the wider implications of this scandal are immense.
Firstly, and most significantly, Allardyce’s involvement in this emphasises just how big an issue corruption is, something that hasn’t been shown in English football singularly for quite some time. The investigation by The Telegraph has highlighted just how many people are guilty of breaking regulations or involved in some way. Players betting on their own teams and other managers also being in the same predicament as Allardyce have emerged from these findings; perhaps ‘Big Sam’ is the unfair face of the issue but it is clear it is a deep problem that has been occurring for years. And although he admits that he made a mistake, it’s clear that he’s only sorry he got caught. It is worrying and frankly quite disrespectful to the sport Allardyce claims to love so much to be implicated in such ways (and even more worrying that there was such a strong precedent for him to do so).
This story also reiterates the commentary of 2016 for England regarding our poor choices for leadership and management, now visible in every sector. From our Prime Minister stepping down during the biggest turmoil of recent political history, to the shameful power struggle that ensued in his resignation (here I nod to Andrea Leadsom and her disgraceful Tory leadership campaign) to the appalling attitude of Sir Phillip Green in the pensions battle of BHS workers, to the mess that was the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, to now the reprehensible actions of the most powerful manager in the country’s biggest sport.
It’s embarrassing for this country. It may seem a stretch and exaggeration to compare this scandal to political or corporate ones, but the problems are clearly the same in that it is now a normal occurrence for a person of significant power to exploit it and break the trust of the people below them. What’s perhaps worse is that football is seen as such a staple and important part of our society – a supposed break from the stresses and scandals of everyday life. If international tournaments weren’t humiliating enough for our national pride, we have now shown the world that we can’t even find a decent man to help lead us to glory, in any sense of the word.
Perhaps the only silver lining to this story is the success of the journalists involved. They performed a lengthy and thorough investigation into the suspicions of corruption before printing any inkling of this story and have provided solid evidence to support their claims. This exposure is a positive for the journalistic profession.
Many people are still undecided as to whether Sam Allardyce stepping down as England manager was necessary, but I think it was. The trust that was given to him was broken and he needed to take responsibility for this, which to his credit he has. All that’s left to say is thank you, ‘Big Sam’, for giving us that thrilling win against Slovakia, and for hopefully now making it acceptable to drink pints of wine.