Sam Allardyce: reputational lessons from this week's football saga

"Bouncebackability" is the clumsy word sometimes still used in the football world to describe how a team or individual can make a comeback after a disappointment.

Sam Alladyce stepped down from his role as England manager yesterday (pic credit: McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock)
Sam Alladyce stepped down from his role as England manager yesterday (pic credit: McManus/BPI/REX/Shutterstock)
After his abrupt departure from the England Manager’s hot seat this week, Sam Allardyce will be hoping for some of that.

It was a classic operation that brought him down. 

He was filmed secretly by the Telegraph’s undercover investigations team casually dismissing vital rules that govern the integrity of football. The full broadsheet splash treatment followed soon after.

Allardyce had stated the rules were "not a problem…ridiculous" and explained how they could be circumvented. 

From the most senior employee of The FA, for whom maintenance of its authority in the game is the paramount concern, this was incendiary.

While contrite, his only public defence, 24 hours later, was to claim "entrapment" - a weak attack on a paper whose investigators he had met with two formerly trusted colleagues.

At The FA, the communications team, headed by the superb Amanda Docherty, will have seen the need for urgent action as soon as they took the first call from the Telegraph. 

Working with the new chairman Greg Clark, Allardyce was alerted while on the golf course and summoned to Wembley and given a chance to put his case.

It was all over within 24 hours. 

In the past, The FA’s instinct would have been to protect its own, wring its hands and fudge. Not now. 
Its handling was slick and decisive and the organisation emerged with greater stature.

For Sam Allardyce, the dust will settle and, after a few weeks, his name will soon be linked with the inevitable vacant managerial roles following the clubs’ routine seasonal culls. 

More revelations of dodgy transactions involving former and current club managers will tarnish the game further.  

Sam will bounce back. The question is; will football rebound from this week by making the overdue reforms it so clearly needs?

Julian Eccles, former comms director at The Football Association
This latest damage to 'brand football' comes in the wake of the FIFA corruption scandals off the pitch and England’s humiliation in the Euros on it, in France this summer.

Even if Roy Hodgson had succeeded in that tournament, fundamental issues in football still remain.
So, many people in the sport will now see an opportunity after the Allardyce saga for the FA to take a firm grip and lead the charge for radical changes.
The case for modernisation and drawing on the best practices from business, particularly in financial transparency, ethics and accountability, will grow stronger after this week.

But so many FA chairmen have been scarred by frustrating battles to modernise the structure, governance and practices of the game. 

I have a few wounds myself.

Resistance to such renovation comes from within The FA’s own archaic structure, which is too often paralysed by the vested and dominant club interests.

But, exploiting its newly enhanced authority, The FA can now legitimately seize this opportunity to lead initiatives on financial malpractice and campaign for modernisation, regardless of the discomfort from some within its ranks.

Sam will bounce back. 

The question is, will football rebound from this week by making the overdue reforms it so clearly needs?

Julian Eccles is the former comms director at The Football Association. 

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