It was a very bad day for English football (soccer for you American readers) when the manager with the highest winning percentage in the history of the English Football Association (FA) was sacked last month. Sam Allardyce, who was undefeated in his nearly three-month reign as the manager of the English national football team (1-0, but hey, undefeated is undefeated), got caught informing a newspaper undercover sting operation on how to cheat at football.
Allardyce was exposed in a video produced by the Telegraph. The 16-minute video shows Allardyce explaining how to get around the Premier League's rules (and FIFA's rules, as well) prohibiting third-party ownership, in which companies or individuals own some or all of a player's economic rights. Allardyce was recorded as saying that there were those within the English football profession who had been breaking these rules for years, and then explained how potential investors could profit from the practice.
One might immediately think of Forest Gump’s Momma’s signature line “Stupid is as stupid does.” However for the FA, the issue was much more serious than simply Allardyce being stupid in explaining how to cheat to an undercover media operative. In the world of professional football, every organization is under intense scrutiny given the negative publicity continually generated for the past 15 months by the extraordinary corruption scandal involving the entire upper echelon of leadership at FIFA. Allardyce’s misstep is just the latest illustration that professional soccer must do more than simply keep its collective hands out of the cookie jar. There must be a real effort by every person in the professional to be on the up and up.
Allardyce’s fall from grace is a very important reminder why it is the top of an organization which sets its tone. If the manager is prepared to lie, cheat, and steal on the business side of sports, what do you think he might be capable of on the pitch? At least the FA, in the equivalent role of a board of directors, had the backbone to do the right thing and sack Allardyce. Maybe they ought to have a conference call with the board of directors of Wells Fargo.