By Joseph Bryan
Undercover Telegraph reporters have secretly filmed the England football manager allegedly describing rules against third-party ownership of players as “not a problem” within the context of apparently agreeing to act as an ambassador for a Far East firm for a fee of £400,000.
Third-party ownership of players is prohibited by the Premier League. FIFA introduced a worldwide ban on 1 May 2015. The FA’s current Third Party Interest in Players Regulations 2015-2016 also outlaw third-party ownership.
The FA keeps the precise details of the England manager’s contract under wraps, but it is likely to require Allardyce to devote all of his time to his managerial duties, avoid conflicts of interest and not do anything in breach of FA Rules or Regulations. Working for a Far East firm, let alone seemingly facilitating a breach of the regulatory prohibition on third-party ownership, could put Allardyce in breach of these terms. Furthermore, every employment relationship depends on mutual trust and confidence: if Allardyce has encouraged or condoned a breach of the FA’s Regulations, the damage to his employment relationship with the FA may be considered irreparable.
The legal test is whether Allardyce’s alleged misconduct has fundamentally undermined the relationship of trust and confidence between him and the FA. If so, he could be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct without any notice payment.
It has been reported that Allardyce made any personal involvement with the Far East firm conditional on approval by the FA. In the circumstances, he may suggest that he has not breached any term of his contract at all – but rather would have sought the agreement of the FA to the arrangement in the first place. He will also no doubt point to the fact that he made it clear that “bungs” were not allowed, so was not going to get involved in any arrangement which was not authorised. Nonetheless, to be caught on camera discussing circumventing FA/FIFA Regulations on third-party ownership as England manager – with the obvious reputational and leadership responsibilities that position brings – may be viewed as an error, if not a gross error, of judgment. At the very least, Allardyce would expect to receive a formal disciplinary warning for his conduct but, based on the published facts, summary dismissal may be justified on the grounds that the alleged misconduct amounted to a fundamental breach of contract – the legal test in employment law. By way of analogy, if a senior banker was caught discussing circumventing money laundering regulations, it would be expected that such an employee would be instantly dismissed.
It is reported that the FA are now investigating the Telegraph allegations. That is the proper procedural course for it to adopt, while giving Allardyce a reasonable opportunity to give his version of events. If that investigation demonstrates that there is a case to answer in terms of alleged misconduct, Allardyce would then be invited to a formal disciplinary meeting at which he would have the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or union representative. Following that disciplinary meeting, Allardyce would be informed of the outcome. As indicated above, based on the Telegraph film, he would be expecting at least to receive a disciplinary warning but may be concerned that his England manager career may come to an ignominious end even before it has really got going.