1.10.16

What now for Allardyce and the Football Association?



This week saw a growing number of reports from The Telegraph newspaper of widespread corruption in football, most notably concerning England manager, Sam Allardyce. That report saw Allardyce resign from the top position in English football but could further sanctions, for Mr Allardyce, now follow from the Football Association (FA) and if so, to what extent?

The FA described Allardyce's conduct, as the England manager, "inappropriate" and having "made a significant error of judgement". They advised, in a statement, that their priority was to "protect the wider interests of the game and maintain the highest standards." Now that the FA has dealt with Allardyce as their employee, they will now look to see if any charges can be brought against him as a 'participant of the game'. One such charge may refer to his conduct as bringing the game into disrepute under general conduct rules.

The FA have a number of sanctions available to them, ranging from fines to a complete lifetime ban, if they decide to bring charges against Allardyce. The allegations, however, from what have been reported in The Telegraph, do not appear to be criminal but, rather, focus on Allardyce's handling of a conflict of interest. It is unlikely, therefore, that Allardyce would receive a lengthy or lifetime ban as this would be disproportionate to the allegation, in question, and excessive.
The FA has previously been faced with considering charges where 'participants of the game' have been engaged in controversial conversations, albeit via text messages. In 2014, the FA decided to take no action against Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, following text messages that referred to women in a derogatory manner and contained sexual innuendos and jokes. The FA, in coming to their decision stated the following: "The FA does not as a matter of policy consider private communications sent to with a legitimate expectation of privacy to amount to professional misconduct." Later that year, the FA were faced with another similar dilemma when Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were caught exchanging text messages that were homophobic, sexist, anti-semitic and racist. Again, in this case, the FA released a statement advising they could not punish the pair because the texts were sent with a "legitimate expectation of privacy." Will the same 'expectation of privacy' apply to the Allardyce case?

The FA will no doubt be launching a detailed inquiry into the revelations that came from the 'sting' by The Telegraph and will take action, where necessary. That inquiry may be (and probably should be) chaired and led by an independent individual, who is unable to be influenced by the 'powers-to-be' in football. We must, however, remember that such difficulties exist in all industry areas and not just football. Whilst it is impossible to always prevent those types of activities from occurring, what is important is how governing bodies react to the information given to them and then what appropriate safeguards are put in place, for future determent. The FA must now build upon their robust systems and processes, leading by example and remain strong and reasonable when applying sanctions so that it cannot be undermined and influenced when making future decisions.

One thing is for sure, whatever the FA decides, Allardyce's reputation and career is irreparably damaged.

IMPORTANT: This post is not intended to be a legal briefing, it is not intended to be a statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

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