Parliamentary hearing plunges us back into football's murky depths

FA chairman Greg Clarke adds to the sense of gloom around the game

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The England manager boasts in public that he knows a way around the Football Association’s rules, an offence so transparently wrong that employment lawyers say immediately that he is liable to be dismissed for gross misconduct. But the FA's contract with him is so weak that a "respectable QC of a high standard” has to be engaged to give an opinion, which is that it would be best to “come to an arrangement” with Sam Allardyce, who strolls off with a few million more.

This disclosure and more came tumbling out on Monday in a Department for Culture, Media, and Sport select committee hearing which was another dismal journey into the space that football occupies. The FA was told, in black and white, by a peer of the realm and former Metropolitan Police commissioner, Lord Stevens, in 2007 that four transfers involving Allardyce were suspicious, yet the FA did not even ask Allardyce about this when hiring him. “Many people would find that amazing,” said MP Damien Collins, communicating the view of the sane world outside. “There are only so many ways of saying: ‘I wasn’t there,’” Greg Clarke, the FA’s new chairman, told the committee, saved by having only just having been hired.

I asked Lord Stevens’ people how he felt about his requests that Allardyce be investigated further being effectively ignored. "It’s up to them. They paid their money for his advice. They can take it or leave it," I was told. Well, it was the Premier League who paid the seven-figure sum actually and it is safe to assume they wanted the custodians of the game – Fifa as well as the FA – to do something about it.

Clarke positioned himself as the FA chairman who gets on with it. There will be no such thing as “Greg Clarke Reforms” he said, with the inference being that his predecessor Greg Dyke loved the razzmatazz. And since he has only been in position for five weeks, he could relate the litany of wrongs which he sees in football. Homophobia among supporters which mean that a Premier League player could never come out. Disregard for disabled supporters which meant that one wheelchair-bound friend of his found his view at a Premier League ground entirely obscured by supporters.

Clarke finds himself in the same invidious position which his predecessors have known – asked to drag the game into the modern age, make it transparent and inclusive, while it is the Premier League which holds the money. But if the organisation’s job wasn’t hard enough, the Allardyce affair demonstrates a desperate bluntness.

The committee hearing lurched into talk of England’s next manager, because MP Jason McCartney likes Eddie Howe and was plainly starstruck. “Just to clarify, it doesn’t have to be Eddie Howe,” he later added, risibly.

Another of the MPs wondered aloud whether the fact that an England manager required a salary of £6m called into question his desire for the job. Inside the bubble, people will think that ridiculous. That’s football for you - a game which has lost touch with reality.

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