England manager for sale - Sam Allardyce caught on camera advising how to get around FA rules
Published 27/09/2016 | 02:30
He had not yet taken charge of his first international match, or even his first training session, but already another pressing matter was on Sam Allardyce's agenda: how to make as much money as possible from his new status as England manager.
The job comes with a salary of £3 million (€3.46m) per year, plus bonuses, but as Allardyce sat down to a meeting in a London hotel he was eager to explore ways of earning even more.
On the table was an offer for Allardyce to fly to Singapore and Hong Kong four times a year to address investors in a Far East firm that wanted to buy football players.
Allardyce (61) was unperturbed by the fact that the firm - in reality a fictitious company whose representatives were undercover 'Daily Telegraph' reporters - was proposing third-party ownership of players, in contravention of Football Association and Fifa rules. During the meeting he remarked that Alex Ferguson gets "four hundred, five hundred grand a pop" for speaking engagements, while Robbie Williams got £1.6m for a wedding. Just singing".
Less than 20 minutes into the meeting with total strangers, Allardyce had agreed, in principle, to a £400,000-a-year deal to represent a company he had never heard of. The England manager insisted he would deliver "value for money" in helping to attract investors, boasting of his popularity in the Orient.
"It's not only the England manager," he said, "it's the beauty of being a Premier League manager all them years like me... I have more pictures taken over there than I have here."
In return, he wanted £100,000 for each trip to the Far East, a figure that went up to £150,000 after an intervention by his agent, Mark Curtis. Naturally, first-class flights and accommodation would also be provided.
The meeting at the May Fair Hotel on August 19 - less than a month after Allardyce was hired as England manager - was arranged by football agent Scott McGarvey, a friend of Allardyce since the days when both were footballers. He, too, thought he was going to be employed by the fictitious Far East firm. Also present was Allardyce's financial adviser, Shane Moloney, from the chartered accountancy firm Shipleys.
Mr Moloney told the undercover reporters: "The way I see it working is this: what you want to do, is to have Sam as the attraction, that brings investors into the fold. So he could talk about football for 15 minutes."
Allardyce agreed: "Keynote speaking, that's what I'd be doing, keynote speaking. I'm a keynote speaker."
Mr Curtis explained that the role would only conflict with Allardyce's day job if he was advising on players and transfers.
"In principle it's okay," Allardyce added. "The fact that I'm going to be turning up on four occasions throughout the year, doing meet and greets and nothing else, so it's not, nobody's going to come back to me and say 'I met Sam and I invested in this, this portfolio, and he told me to go and buy these young players, and that young player', and that's, you know. So they can't blame me, do you know what I mean?"
Allardyce did not appear to have considered the potential conflict of interest that would arise if players part-owned by the Far East firm were selected to play for England, raising their value and increasing profits for the firm's investors.
He did, however, express an apparent nervousness about being publicly linked to the firm. One of the undercover reporters asked if it could bill the England manager as its "strategic adviser".
"Not on the football side, no," Allardyce replied. "If you were buying players, that would be no. Because I couldn't associate my name with any of that."
His agent said: "It's important that we get that out there rather than anyone being misled or disappointed."
Allardyce was, though, happy to be paid by the firm on a "loose basis" to speak at "intimate" functions and then spend time with carefully selected investors in the bar afterwards.
Mr Moloney said: "I know Singapore, China, the idea of an England manager out there in China. Huge. And that's ... that's the value of it.
"They'll come just to be there. To hear him," he added.
"He's a brilliant speaker. Loves it."