England manager Sam Allardyce is out, and the blitz the Daily Telegraph are on in exposing corruption in English football has pinned the blame on three individuals in the Championship division: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of QPR, Tommy Wright of Barnsley, and Leeds owner Massimo Cellino, who is probably the least surprising name to find on this list. But there’s nothing new about corruption flowing through the highest levels of English football. It’s only the reaction and exposure in this case.
Even Alex Ferguson has been involved in some shady allegations regarding himself and his son, Darren Ferguson. There’s the whole Rock of Gibraltar story: Ferguson was given % of the horse’s winnings in lieu of a fee for marketing reasons and the additional sponsorship interest having him attached would bring. The horse won 10 group one races, but the real money is in stud fees and bloodstock. That’s where the problems appeared between Ferguson and John Magnier & J.P. McManus. Ferguson thought he deserves money from the stud fees as well, and so they went to court.
The case was settled out of court. Rumor has it McManus and Magnier dug up dirt on Ferguson detailing the links between elite sports group (his son) and their representation of players, the deals that went through them and the conflicts of interest in a 99 question document presents to the shareholders of the club at the time. And there’s the transfer of Bebe, signed for £7 million despite Ferguson admitting he had never seen him play. Many believe this was some sort of payoff to super agent Jorge Mendes, either to keep the relationship going or as a thank you for keeping Ronaldo at Manchester United for one more season.
But it’s not just Ferguson. In 2006, Mike Newell and Ian Holloway alleged that managers all over the Premier League were taking backhanders for transfers and other dealings. Bolton and Portsmouth (managed by Allardyce and Harry Redknapp at the time) were accused of taking bribes for buying certain players and illegally tapping up a player respectively. Two agents claimed they paid Allardyce to sign players through his son, and the Tal Ben Haim transfer to Bolton was allegedly done through a third party, which is now illegal.
The FA, digging up a lot o dirt, were unhappy with a lot of transfers: From Didier Drogba and Michael Essien to Chelsea, to Aiyegbeni Yakubu at Middlesbrough. Agents like Pinhas Zahavi and Barry Silkman refused to cough up banking statements and financial details to shed lights on the weird findings, and other problems were found in dealings Newcastle had, back when Graeme Souness was their manager.
In 2007 Redknapp, along with over Portsmouth current and former officials like Milan Mandaric were arrested, although nothing came of it in the end, despite evidence that Mandaric shifted £180,000 to Redknapp’s Monaco bank account. In 2008 other individuals at West Ham were arrested, and charges were brought against five different agents, yet everything was dropped for some reason, and no one really took a bullet.
There’s nothing surprising about finding out managers are dealing in shady business with agents and businessmen trying to bend the rules or break them through known loopholes. What will be surprising if the FA and courts actually do something about it.