TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA – SEPTEMBER 04: Sam Allardyce manager of England looks on prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The Telegraph in England unveiled the first in a series of promised articles detailing allegations and evidence of corruption throughout soccer in the country. The first target was new England manager Sam Allardyce, who was caught in a sting of investigative reporters posing as foreign businessmen.

Allardyce was taped talking to the investigative reporters trying to encourage them to get around rules in place to prevent agents and third parties from owning shares in players and profiting from transfer fees. In a companion piece, the Telegraph further explains third party ownership, which came to prominence in the late 2000s with the controversial sales of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to West Ham United.

The practice was banned by the English Football Association in 2008 and by FIFA in 2015. Basically, it allows outside entities to not only profit from player movement, but also help direct player movement as well.

And Allardyce’s willingness to be an “ambassador” in such activity is unseemly to say the least. Via The Telegraph:

Before he had even held his first training session as England’s new head coach, Allardyce negotiated a deal with men purporting to represent a Far East firm that was hoping to profit from the Premier League’s billion-pound transfer market.

He agreed to travel to Singapore and Hong Kong as an ambassadorand explained to the “businessmen” how they could circumvent Football Association rules which prohibit third parties “owning” players.

Unbeknown to Allardyce, the businessmen were undercover reporters and he was being filmed as part of a 10-month Telegraph investigation that separately unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football.

And now with Allardyce caught trying to encourage the undercover reporters to get around those bans, and to help facilitate the activity, it’s causing major concerns about his ability to lead England just one game into his tenure. Another England paper, the Daily Mail, says he could already be “facing the axe.”

Allardyce was named England manager in July after serving as manager for EPL clubs like Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, and Sunderland. England won their first game under Allardyce in 2018 World Cup Qualifying with a 1-0 win over Slovakia in early September.

As bad as the story is so far, it may get much, much worse. What might be even more alarming than possible corruption by the England National Team manager is what The Telegraph is promising next… namely, investigations into prominent English Premier League clubs and managers.

The Telegraph began investigating corruption in English football last year after receiving information that specific managers, officials and agents were taking or receiving cash payments to secure player transfers. Over the coming days the Telegraph will detail how:

  • The assistant manager of a high-profile football club accepted a £5,000 cash “bung”
  • Ten managers were named by players’ agents as taking bribes to fix player transfers
  • Two well-known managers discussed becoming ambassadors for the same fictitious firm as Sam Allardyce
  • Another high-profile manager admitted his players broke FA rules by betting on their own games but he failed to report it
  • A senior figure at a Premier League club helped undercover reporters to formulate a plan to bribe managers

Bribery, fixing player transfers, breaking FA and FIFA rules… this could get very ugly as the investigation unfolds into corruption in English soccer.

In some ways, it’s reminiscent of what we’ve seen stateside with the NCAA and college recruiting. Yes, there are rules in place that exist, but you can imagine that beneath the surface every manager and every club is doing everything they can within and outside of those rules to gain a competitive advantage. One wonders what the English equivalent of the “bag man” might be.

You can be sure that FA and FIFA will be following the investigation and the reporting very closely, though. And given some of the very stiff penalites we’ve seen in world soccer, with Barcelona given a year-long transfer ban for infractions on signing under-age international players, the hammer could be about to drop on some of England’s biggest names.