Return of the Undercover Squad

Over the last 48 hours one story has dominated the news headlines in the UK – the departure of England football manager Sam Allardyce after just one match and 67 days in charge. This sensational series of events came following a series of revelations exposed by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, whose undercover journalists – posing as businessmen – filmed Allardyce making comments that brought the game into disrepute.

A salary of £3m per year was seemingly not enough for the 61-year-old, who was shown discussing the possibility of receiving £400,000 for representing the fictitious company that the journalists claimed to represent. Even worse, he openly claimed that it was easy to get around Football Association (FA) rules regarding player transfers, and made distasteful remarks about his predecessor Roy Hodgson and other senior figures within the English football setup.

Such comments were not in keeping with the moral and ethical code of the FA, who after all, were his employers. Their leading public face discussing that it was possible to flout rules that they uphold was what alone made his future as boss untenable, so he became England’s shortest reigning permanent manager, and his dream job was in tatters.

In spite of the remarks, there was inevitably a school of thought which felt that the undercover reporting was unethical, and full of malicious intent. Going undercover and employing secret filming are techniques which are now looked upon with suspicion, having gained something of a reputation for being sleazy or shady. I have to admit it was a little reminiscent of similar exposés by the defunct News of the World.

I am also dubious about such practices, the likes of which seemed to be becoming phased out, especially since the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics. However, the Daily Telegraph‘s work has been met with acclaim by their industry colleagues, among whom there was undoubtedly some envious glances with regards to a rival publication pulling off such a coup and bringing about the downfall of the England manager.

While I do have reservations about how the Daily Telegraph carried out their operation, there can be no excuses for Allardyce. His actions were grossly immoral and extremely foolish, and to even agree to meeting the so-called businessmen was a catastrophic error of judgment.

When interviewed yesterday by a crowd of reporters who gathered outside his home, Allardyce ruefully and wryly remarked that ‘entrapment has won’, while admitting his mistakes. Still, his behaviour and remarks were inexcusable and not befitting of his role.

And the revelations have only just begun. The Telegraph are beginning a 10-month campaign of stories surrounding corruption in English football. Allardyce may prove to be the highest profile casualty, but a number of other figures within the game may also be made to suffer the consequences in the not too distant future.

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