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16th March 2018
England’s Football Association has dismissed England manager Sam Allardyce, after a Daily Telegraph investigation filmed him telling undercover reporters how to get around rules banning third party ownership (TPO) of players, and agreeing a £400,000 deal to meet people interested in investing in a TPO fund. Video footage published by the Daily Telegraph showed Allardyce advising the fake TPO fund to do a deal with a player’s agent in order to be paid a percentage of any agent fee when a player is sold on, therefore avoiding FIFA and FA bans on TPO of players.
The video footage appears to indicate the view amongst Allardyce’s entourage that TPO is only banned in the UK and France. FIFA’s ban on TPO, which came into force on 1 May 2015, prevents clubs or players entering into agreements ‘where a third party is entitled to participate, either in full or in part, in compensation payable in relation to the future transfer of a player from one club to another, or is being assigned any rights in relation to a future transfer or transfer compensation’. The FA’s TPO rules, first formulated in 2008, are based on the same premise but also require any third party interest in a player to be transferred to any purchasing club that falls under the FA’s jurisdiction.
TPO has faced criticism for taking money out of the game and putting it into the pockets of ‘third parties’. However although it is banned, various mechanisms of circumventing TPO rules are known to exist.
This is because in countries that are net exporters of players, keeping talented youngsters in the country whilst protecting their global market value is a major issue. Domestic leagues in those countries must keep local talent for as long as possible to keep audiences interested. Often, agencies will get involved in financing the transfer of the player from one club to another in return for a percentage of any future transfer fee. By doing this, the purchasing club can then protect its investment from being ‘poached’ by overseas clubs by using the third party investment to maintain that player’s value on the global market, thus keeping their audience interested, the turnstiles ticking and TV channels paying.
A criticism of the TPO ban has been that by preventing countries that are net exporters of players from keeping and developing young talent, regulators are decimating domestic leagues in Latin American countries and other countries that are net exporters of players. The TPO ban effectively allows rich European clubs access to those players at an earlier stage, at a lower price.
One method of protecting against a potential raid of young talent is through the use of bridge transfers. They allow clubs to artificially inflate the value of a player by engineering a transfer involving three clubs, allowing all three to take a share of the profit when the player is eventually sold, through ‘training compensation’ payable under Article 20 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. There are no regulations preventing bridge transfers in themselves, although five clubs were sanctioned by FIFA in 2014 for using FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) for ‘illegitimate purposes’.
The Football Association terminated Allardyce’s contract later in the day. ‘The FA can confirm that Sam Allardyce has left his position as England manager’, read a statement. ‘Allardyce’s conduct, as reported today, was inappropriate of the England manager. He accepts he made a significant error of judgement and has apologised. However, due to the serious nature of his actions, The FA and Allardyce have mutually agreed to terminate his contract with immediate effect.’
‘This afternoon, I met with Greg Clarke and Martin Glenn and offered a sincere and wholehearted apology for my actions’, read a statement from Allardyce. ‘Although it was made clear during the recorded conversations that any proposed arrangements would need The FA’s full approval, I recognise I made some comments which have caused embarrassment.’ Gareth Southgate, who was criticised by Allardyce in the Daily Telegraph’s exposé, will take charge of the England team for the next four matches against Malta, Slovenia, Scotland and Spain while The FA begins its search for a new England manager.
Perhaps more worrying for the FA and English football is the Daily Telegraph’s assertion that its exposé of Allardyce is part of a ten-month investigation that the newspaper claimed ‘unearthed widespread evidence of bribery and corruption in British football’. The newspaper said it began its infestation after receiving information that managers, officials and agents were accepting or taking payments in order to secure player transfers.
The newspaper promised that over the coming days, it will reveal evidence that the assistant manager of a ‘high profile football club’ accepted a £5,000 payment in connection to a player transfer; that ten managers were named by agents as being known to accept bribes to secure player transfers; that two other ‘well known’ mangers discussed becoming ambassadors for the same fake firm that Allardyce agreed to work for; that a ‘high profile manager’ admitted his players broke FA rules on betting on their own games; that a ‘senior figure’ at a Premier League club helped undercover reporters formulate a plan to bribe managers. Watch this space.
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