Sam Allardyce to be sacked as England manager? The legal issues the FA must consider

Sam Allardyce seen during his only game so far as England manager, against Slovakia (Getty)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Telegraph 'sting' investigation which snared Sam Allardyce has created international headlines, and reportedly prompted the FA to hold urgent talks with the England manager. The Telegraph even claims Allardyce is on the brink of being sacked, although the FA has made no formal statement on the matter.

Here leading sports lawyer Dr Gregory Ionnadis tallks us through the legal minefield the FA and Allardyce could face, and what could happen if Allardyce is relieved of his duties.

Has Sam Allardyce done anything that contravenes the law?

A distinction needs to be made between the law of the land and the regulatory framework of the FA and that of Fifa. In terms of the former and, subject to the availability of the evidence, it is doubtful that the law of the land has been breached.

In terms of the latter, and subject to the interpretation of the current rules, in conjunction with the evidence and the accused's contract of employment, there may be some considerations for The FA.

What sort of penalty can Allardyce expect for suggesting the rules on third-party ownership, one of his employer's key policies, could be bypassed? Does this amount to gross misconduct? 

If the allegations are proven, to the comfortable satisfaction of those adjudicating upon the matter, then, subject to the relevant provisions of the accused's contract of employment, there may be a case of dismissal. But we are not privy to such a contract. 

Are his comments about third-party ownership, and the loopholes in the current rules, accurate? 

To a great extent, but not completely. 

Attention must be placed to the fact that Allardyce is seeking clearance from his employer in the interview recorded by the Telegraph, and this may be an important evidential issue. 

If Allardyce were to be dismissed, would he have any recourse, or grounds for appeal? 

This is the tricky bit for any lawyers advising Sam Allardyce. 

Subject to any relevant provisions in the accused's contract of employment, which determine the employee's conduct on and off the pitch, and provided the allegations are proven, the accused in such cases would have very little he/she could do in terms of the disciplinary law and the rules of his employer [we must make clear that Allardyce is accused of nothing at this point].

The code of ethics of The FA and that of Fifa place a heavy burden on those who use it. By way of association, the England manager is an officer of a national football federation, so he is, therefore, bound to follow such codes.

On the other hand, the issue of third party ownership does not have an exclusive prohibition on all European member states, and there may be an argument that such rules contravene European Union competition laws.

Given, however, that Allardyce is the manager of the national football team, of a football association, it could be argued, subject to the relevant provisions in his contract of employment, that he should not place himself in a position of a conflict of interest. 

Are there enough grounds for the FA to claim Allardyce has explicitly promised this 'firm' to help them circumvent the rules? 

This is a contentious point.

Even if Allardyce does not mean anything by his comments that there are ways to 'get around" the third-party rules, he is in the company of his agent and his financial advisor. That alone means that he should be using his advisors prior to any statements.

In any event, the code of ethics and the code of conduct he is bound to follow create a very heavy burden and as previously argued, he has a duty to ensure that he is not placed in a position of a conflict of interest and he must do everything he can to ensure that he does not bring his employers and the game of football into disrepute. 

Gregory Ionnadis specialises in litigation at CAS & FIFA. He is an nti-doping litigation expert, a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and an academic associate at Kings Chambers. You can find him on Twitter @LawTop20

The views expressed in this article are personal to Dr Ionnadis and do not reflect those of talkRADIO