MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Even by English soccer’s standards, the latest embarrassment is a new low. Sam Allardyce was forced out in disgrace after one game in charge of the national team.
Having taken 25 years to reach the pinnacle of English soccer management, Allardyce was toppled after only 67 days by his hubris and indiscretions involving undercover journalists posing as businessmen.
The English Football Association decided Tuesday, within 24 hours of a Daily Telegraph sting being published, that the 61-year-old Allardyce lacked the integrity to hold one of the most prestigious jobs in the game.
Allardyce had a 100 percent record - winning his only game against Slovakia earlier this month - but will go down as the England manager with the shortest tenure.
Even before taking charge of his first game, Allardyce was inadvertently preparing the ground for his downfall with his loose talk in a London hotel in August to the investigative reporters.
A covert video showed Allardyce appearing to offer advice to fictitious businessmen on how to sidestep an outlawed player transfer practice and also to negotiate a 400,000-pound ($519,000) public-speaking contract to top up an annual England salary of 3 million pounds ($4 million).
A further video showed Allardyce mocking predecessor Roy Hodgson, who was fired after England’s humiliating loss to tiny Iceland at the European Championship in June, questioning the FA’s financial strategy and talking dismissively about the organization’s president, Prince William.
The FA acted swiftly to publication of the story, holding emergency talks with Allardyce in London before announcing the termination of his two-year contract on Tuesday evening.
“In light of the media allegations that we’ve seen,” FA chief executive Martin Glenn said, “we’ve concluded - and Sam’s agreed - that his behavior has been inappropriate and frankly not what is expected of an England manager.”
And, as “guardians of the game,” Glenn insisted that the same rules and high standards of conduct had to apply to everyone in English soccer.
“That consistency, that trust that people have in us to behave in the appropriate manner, is core to what any football association is about,” Glenn said. “It’s a painful decision because we thought he was a great manager, but it’s the right decision if we are to protect the integrity of The FA.”
One of Allardyce’s last official duties as England manager was participating in the Football Writers’ Association golf day on Monday. It appears Allardyce was playing golf with journalists when the Telegraph first put questions to the manager and his representatives about the investigation.
Now Allardyce is left to reflect on losing his dream job.
“It was a great honor for me to be appointed back in July and I am deeply disappointed at this outcome,” said Allardyce, who was never called up by England during his playing career. “Although it was made clear during the recorded conversations that any proposed arrangements would need the FA’s full approval, I recognize I made some comments which have caused embarrassment.”
England is not rushing to replace Allardyce. Gareth Southgate, the manager of England’s under-21 side, will take charge of the senior team’s next four matches - against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain - across October and November. That means there is less urgency for the FA to hire a new manager with the following game not until March 2017 when England hosts Lithuania in its fifth World Cup qualifier.
The Telegraph published its investigation in its Tuesday edition, under the front-page headline: “England manager for sale.”
Allardyce met people he reportedly thought were representatives of an Asian firm. In a grainy video, he is recorded as saying it was “not a problem” to circumvent FA rules that stop third parties from owning the economic rights of players. FIFA has banned third-party ownership as a threat to the game’s integrity because investors force transfers to make a profit.
“You can still get around it,” the former Sunderland and West Ham manager said in the recording. “I mean obviously the big money’s here.”
Allardyce told the undercover reporters that Hodgson sent players “all to sleep.” Allardyce also mimicked Hodgson’s speech impediment.
Only last week Allardyce was eagerly taking pictures on his phone of the European Championship trophy at the London launch of the branding for the Euro 2020 semifinals and final which are being staged at Wembley Stadium. In the recordings, Allardyce questioned why Prince William was absent from the launch.
“He’s our ambassador for the Football Association, so it would have been nice if he’d have turned up but he obviously had more, much busier things on,” Allardyce said.
The cost of Wembley Stadium, which hosts England home games, was also a target for Allardyce in the recordings.
“They stupidly spent 870 million pounds on Wembley, so they’re still paying that debt off,” Allardyce said of the FA. “They’re all about making money aren’t they? You know the FA’s the richest football association in the world? Well, I shouldn’t say that.”
Allardyce issued a “sincere and wholehearted apology” to the FA, but it wasn’t enough to save one of the most high-profile jobs in world sport.
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