FA Chairman Greg Clarke has admitted Sam Allardyce received a pay-off when he lost the England job but denied the Football Association failed to scrutinise the manager’s background before hiring him.
Allardyce and the FA “mutually terminated” their contract after only 67 days when the 61-year-old was caught making indiscreet remarks on camera by Daily Telegraph reporters investigating allegations of corruption in football.
Clarke and the FA’s director of strategy Robert Sullivan were appearing before the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, with the MPs repeatedly challenging them on what due diligence was done before Allardyce was hired in July.
“I wasn’t there because I have only been in this post for five weeks but I am assured by board members that they did do due diligence on Mr Allardyce,” said Clarke, who frequently reminded the MPs during the two-hour session that his time at the FA overlapped with Allardyce’s by just two weeks.
“Significant inquiries were made, we spoke to his former clubs and the League Managers Association – no issues were raised.”
But neither Clarke nor Sullivan, who was at the FA when Allardyce was appointed, were able to say if Allardyce was questioned about the corruption claims made about him and his son Craig, an agent, by the BBC’s Panorama in 2006.
They were also unable to confirm if anybody asked Allardyce about the four transfer deals he was involved in that were flagged up as suspicious by Lord Stevens’ 2007 report into overseas player deals.
Allardyce has always denied any wrongdoing.
Clarke’s inability to answer questions about historic allegations of wrongdoing frequently irritated the MPs but, overall, the former Leicester City and Football League chairman came across well.
Clarke kept his cool, was polite, promised to reply in writing to their more immediate inquiries and said he would return at the end of the season for a full debrief of his first year in charge.
The MPs approved of that but did not like the idea of Allardyce receiving a “financial arrangement” – reported to be £1million – and it was that subject that provided the session’s most lively exchanges.
Clarke said he, chief executive Martin Glenn and Allardyce came to a mutual agreement that the former Bolton, West Ham, Newcastle and Sunderland manager was “in breach of his duties”.
The chairman said it was “questionable” that Allardyce should be negotiating what he believed was a £400,000 deal to give speeches in the Far East to investors in an agency only a few weeks into his £3m-a-year contract with the FA.
“I think he let us down badly because in the end we want a manage whose sole responsibility is to win games for England,” said Clarke.
“So his contract was terminated by mutual consent – there was a financial agreement but I can’t tell you what it is because there is a non-disclosure agreement.”
The former Cable and Wireless chief executive, however, revealed the deal was hammered out by the FA’s legal team and a QC acting on Allardyce’s behalf. Clarke said the FA also sought external advice.
This admission caused consternation among the panel, with Nigel Adams, Andrew Bingham, Ian Lucas and Chris Matheson asking why Allardyce was not sacked for gross misconduct without a pay-off.
Clarke, citing his experience of company law, rejected this and repeated that the legal advice was to reach a settlement.
“Any right-thinking person would rather spend money on grassroots facilities but we will always obey the law,” he added.
Clarke also stressed the FA had still not received all of the Telegraph’s evidence as it is being assessed by the City of London police for possible criminal charges.
He explained it is impossible to assess Allardyce’s misconduct without knowing exactly what he was asked, as the newspaper has only released his answers.
“I tend not to judge the answer until I’ve seen the question and we’re still waiting to see the question,” said Clarke when asked about Allardyce’s most controversial comment about “ways to get around” FA rules on the third-party ownership of players.
Clarke was equally elusive when quizzed on who might replace Allardyce on a full-time basis – he said Gareth Southgate will be given the four games he was promised to stake a claim for the job before any moves are made to approach other candidates – or how much they should be paid.
Despite the MPs’ best efforts to reserve the job for hard-working, inspirational leaders who would want to do the job as a public duty, Clarke explained that for most candidates the salary would mean a pay-cut.
He did, however, admit that his preference would be that any extra work they do, such as speeches in the Far East or elsewhere, would be for charity.