Allardyce case underlines need for sports governance reforms, observers say

Photo: Mark Botham/Flickr

Photo: Mark Botham/Flickr


By Stine Alvad
The allegations of corruption among FA managers and officials, including former English manager Sam Allardyce, have entailed critique of the FA but also calls for a broader look into the governance of sport.

In a series of articles, English newspaper The Telegraph has published reports and undercover footage of meetings showing managers and other officials from English football accounting for different ways to bend the rules and to make lucrative deals in relation to player transfers.

The most significant of the revelations involved Sam Allardyce, former manager of the English national football team, who was depicted negotiating a £400,000 agreement supposedly allowing an overseas company to profit from a Premier League transfer.

Allardyce admitted to an error of judgement and left the job few days later by “mutual consent”. “Entrapment has won on this occasion and I have to accept that,” said Allardyce, referring to the undercover operation.

Problems in the FA call for broader look at governance
Tracey Crouch, UK minister for sport, said that the reports were “very concerning” and called for the claims to be “investigated fully”.

“The integrity of sport is absolutely paramount and we have been clear that we expect the highest standards of governance and transparency from sports governing bodies, here in the UK and on the international stage,” she said, writes the AFP.

Acting chair of the UK culture, media and sport select committee, Damian Collins, also sees a need for a thorough look into the FA as well as into football governance more broadly.

“Allardyce story leaves big questions for FA on policing 3rd party ownership rules and for the broader poor culture of football governance,” Collins wrote in a Tweet.

According to chief sports correspondent at the Guardian, Owen Gibson, the FA has been “unsteady and unprepared” for what the game of football has become.

“The huge global expansion of the game, lubricated by billions spent by fans and the ambitions of thrusting individuals, companies and entire countries, has ushered in a world that has spun far beyond the FA’s control,” Gibson writes in a comment arguing that the FA and other governing bodies in the sport need more knowledge about the economics of the game.

“But large amounts of money continue to move around the world in largely unregulated fashion and too much remains unknown about where it ends up. Certainly, football’s governing bodies do not have the tools or the will to police it properly.”

Sport must assume responsibility
Another critic to use this incident as a lever for addressing sports governance in general is Richard Pound, IOC Member and former WADA president, who has often aired his views on the state of international sports governance. In a comment in the Telegraph, he uses the current FA scandal to call on sporting organisations to change and argues that three steps will help sports organisations on the way to a change.

Firstly, sport must acknowledge that a problem exits, secondly, sport must adapt its governance to a new world order in which sport’s autonomy is weakening.

“Until relatively recently, sport enjoyed almost complete autonomy, existing outside the normal legal order, making and enforcing its own rules. But that autonomy can, and in recent years has been, greatly restricted, as more attention is focused on the conduct of sport organisations,” Pound writes.

This adaptation can be made through more transparency in the top management, strengthened ethics committees and a higher level of independent members.

Thirdly, Pound says that sport must acknowledge that sport is also hit by corruption from people outside sport, and refers to match-fixing and betting.

Sport itself, however, must be the first to answer to these challenges, Pound says.

"Most important of all is that sport must assume the front line responsibility for governance of its activities. This is not a responsibility that can be delegated to “someone else” while sport enjoys the financial rewards. Sport can seek partners to assist, but if it abandons its moral authority, the viewing (and paying) public may well turn off the financial tap,” Pound concludes his comment.

Investigations are ongoing
The FA is in talks with both the Telegraph and the London Police and “treats any allegations of this nature seriously and is committed to investigating them thoroughly, in conjunction with any other appropriate body”, said an FA statement.

The League Managers Association, who were “extremely concerned” by the allegations, have also requested full disclosure of the results of The Telegraph investigations.

According to The Telegraph, the paper intends to hand over the transcripts from the investigations to the FA. “It remains our intention to do so,” The Telegraph wrote on 27 September. “However, the police have asked to review this information first. The FA and the Premier League are aware of this.”


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