Something about Sam Allardyce ‘leaving’ the job as manager of the England national football team this week has left me feeling rather uneasy. A little queasy, perhaps.
It’s not that I’m a fan of Allardyce; I personally thought he was an uninspiring choice as England manager. In that respect I’m not sad to see him go. Nor is it that I think he didn’t deserve to be fired. The FA had little choice given the situation they found themselves in.
What I don’t like about the incident is the manner in which it came about. The Telegraph’s revelations were the result of what those in the trade refer to as a ‘sting’ operation by undercover reporters posing as businessmen. In plain language, that’s what most of us call media entrapment.
Media Entrapment and the Public Interest
Media entrapment is perfectly legal if it is in the public interest and if there is no other way of getting specific information.
But consider this. Had he not been proactively approached about being paid £400,000 to speak in the Far East about the rules surrounding third party player ownership, would Allardyce ever have got involved? Does he hire himself out? Of course not.
Were his actions stupid? Yes. Greedy? Yes. Naive? Yes. But malicious? No.
So how is it in the public interest to tempt him in such a way? Especially when he told the ‘businessmen’ that he would have to check with the FA before taking the gig.
Where Does Journalism Cross the Line?
Regarding some of the other things he said, Allardyce is entitled to his views on his predecessor Roy Hodgson’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, the role of assistant Gary Neville, the attitude and mindset of the players at his disposal, and even whether or not the FA wasted millions of pounds rebuilding the national stadium at Wembley.
Many would actually agree with most, if not all of those opinions. Would it be disrespectful and a fireable offence for the England manager to voice those opinions publicly? Sure.
But is it disrespectful simply to hold those opinions and state them in private? They’re not offensive in any way.
The fact that someone chose to secretly record that conversation and then publish it is, for me, borne out of journalistic spite and greed.
Likewise, Allardyce’s mocking of Hodgson’s speech impediment is childish rather than vindictive. Jonathon Ross has the same problem and some of his guests openly mock him on his prime time TV show.
Allardyce isn’t whiter than white and, pertinently, never was. He’s always been a divisive character: football fans knew that when he was appointed England boss, the FA knew it and the media knew it. You could call him an easy target.
And so, all things considered, does this sting expose a character who in no way, shape or form should be in the highly responsible position of England football manager? Is it in the public’s interest to have him removed from said position?
Or is it just ‘investigative journalism’ of the ugliest and dirtiest kind?
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below…