The suspicions about Malky Mackay and Iain Moody had become so overwhelming in recent months that Cardiff City gave their two former employees a choice. First, there would be no pay-off from the club, no legal fee, and a fulsome apology to Vincent Tan, the club’s owner. Finally, the two men were encouraged to report to the Football Association the racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages they are alleged to have sent – though Mackay denies sexist and homophobic content.
Mackay and Moody each complied with the apology, which was issued in May and first suggested that the former manager’s case against Tan was not as tight as his original £7.5m claim for compensation might have indicated. The self-reporting to the FA, however, never took place and therefore it was eventually decided that Cardiff would do that part themselves, sending two letters to the governing body, the first on Friday.
Mackay and Moody could hardly have thought it was not coming. Cardiff’s lawyers Mishcon de Reya this year obtained a High Court search order to go through Moody’s house in search of emails and text messages. He was obliged to let them in subject to a penal notice, which meant that he could have been arrested and imprisoned if he had tried to stop them.
For the FA, with its experience of dealing with high-profile racism cases in recent years, with Luis Suarez, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka, this is another test of its power and moral authority in the modern game. Taken on face value, however, the evidence seems much stronger than it was in the three previous cases, with their instances of claim and counter-claim and sensitive interpretation of Rioplatense Spanish or anti-Semitic gestures.
When last week it received the first of Cardiff’s letters detailing the text messages and emails sent between Mackay and Moody, the FA compliance department was on its early-season tour of the nation’s clubs, making presentations to players and staff about the kind of things that could get them in trouble. The Mackay-Moody case is likely to focus minds in the game more effectively than anything.
The texts point to another grim day for English football. The “fkn chinkys”, the “Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers”, “the gay snake”, the “All Blacks” remark about a list of black players and the unflattering comment about a female agent do nothing to dispel the image that some in the English game exist in a time warp. The FA celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and some of the game’s attitudes towards race, gender and sexuality also date back that far.
On Wednesday night, one of Mackay’s former players at Cardiff, Ibrahim Farah, Welsh of Somaliland heritage, tweeted that he had been referred to as the “wee Egyptian” by his former manager. Another depressing allegation about life inside a professional club. Farah, now at Carmarthen Town, later deleted the tweets but it is now inevitable that his evidence will be sought by the FA’s compliance team.
When Mackay was sacked by Tan in December amid handwringing and widespread public support, the chief executive of the League Managers’ Association, Richard Bevan, praised the Scot for conducting himself “with such integrity during what, for him, has been an extremely difficult period”. The LMA, usually so quick to defend its members, was also caught in the crossfire.
It would appear that Mackay has let down so many of his supporters, be they Bevan or Cardiff fans or journalists who chronicled his woes at the club. Sources at Cardiff say that the relationship between Tan and Mackay was healthy until questions started being asked by the club’s owner about the signings in the summer of last year. It was then that they believe stories unfavourable to Tan started circulating – what he later referenced as “dirty linen – exposed to the public gaze”.
While the shocking content of the texts has done Mackay and Moody untold damage, they are still to discover the full scope of Cardiff’s investigation into their transfers. The club believe that around £90m was committed in all in the summer of last year, on transfer fees, agent fees and wages. The transfer market is a notoriously volatile environment but the example of Gary Medel, the Chile international, for whom they paid a fee of £15m, is one example of what Cardiff consider overpaying.
Caught out by the claims was the Palace co-owner Steve Parish, who 10 days ago had a manager and a sporting director at the club. Currently he has neither, and Glenn Hoddle, his second choice to succeed Tony Pulis after Mackay, had also turned the job down. It is understood that Parish urged Moody to resign on Wednesday night as details of the claims against him emerged.
Moody finally resigned this afternoon, bringing to an end, for now, an unlikely career in football. A former press officer at Watford, he was given greater responsibilities during Aidy Boothroyd’s time in charge. He rose to be the director of football operations, a grand title for the man who made sure the training ground ran smoothly, until under Mackay his influence grew.
Having been sacked from Cardiff by Tan in October, Moody was recruited by Parish to help Palace after their chaotic summer transfer window last year. In the last week, Moody has been present at the interviews for all candidates for the Palace job, along with Parish and chief executive Phil Alexander. Parish tells people that Moody, multilingual, is an asset in dealing with player agents, especially those from overseas. For his part, Pulis did not want to work with Moody.
The FA faces issues in this case, not least because Mackay and Moody are not currently in the game and therefore technically beyond its sanction for now. However, the FA recognises that this is yet another case on which it will be judged and that it needs to take the lead. Anys contention that these were private messages, as argued by Richard Scudamore in his sexist email saga, is not necessarily a bar to disciplinary action either.
Moody’s resignation suggests that at least one of the two men recognises his position in football is, for now, untenable. The statement from Mackay’s agent, Raymond Sparkes, suggests that his man is prepared to fight on.