Can Crystal Palace hold the moral high ground by hiring 'Big Sam'?

Some things in football never change.

Managers and their reputations are a loophole to the adage.

Remember when Allardyce was English football’s messiah, reborn from unemployment to engineer an England squad that would make the Hodgson era merely a laughable time? Those times are dead and now Allardyce (or as he wishes you would pronounce it, “Al-are-dee-chee”) has been disgraced after video footage distributed by The Telegraph in September appeared to reveal the gruff Englishman telling, who he believed to be businessmen, ways that they could circumvent the Premier League’s transfer policies on Third-party ownership and profit. Allardyce also professes in the video to having himself sought to circumvent these rule when he signed Ecuadorean Enner Valencia during his tenure as West Ham manager and ridicules the rules.

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The footage led to Allardyce being asked to resign as England manager after only one match at the helm as the FA felt his actions undermined his integrity and judgment.

Palace’s apparent intentions to hire him as the heir to Alan Pardew are shocking to many supporters, myself included, who like to believe their club has a strong moral fabric, centered around the fans and families of South London. Throughout Palace’s brief but ongoing and dense Premier League tenure, club chairman Steve Parish has been sure to grow the club at a measured pace, not letting purely commercial interests stain Crystal Palace’s moral fabric.

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Hiring Allardyce runs the severe risk of letting football’s malpractice corrupt a club that appears to have resisted it. It’s resisted total control by business leaders with limited football knowledge (Parish still controls Palace’s operations despite foreign investment). It’s mostly resisted the tide of rising ticket prices and been reactive to fans’ opinions on the matter, freezing most ticket prices. In a football sense, relegation seems the severest outcome for the Eagles but I fear the potential consequences of Allardyce’s alleged previous rule-breaking and business malpractice. Third-party financial ownership bloats the pockets of vested commercial interests at the expense of those who make football: the fans, the players, and the clubs.

Third-party ownership deals allow for private investors to own at least a portion of a player’s financial rights. The practice has been wholesomely illegal under the FA’s dominion since 2008 and FIFA’s since 2015. West Ham was fined for impropriety on the matter after signing Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano through third party owners that controlled the players’ financial rights and had the ability to move the player on whenever for whatever fee. It sacrifices a players’ and clubs’ autonomies alike and runs the risk of severe consequences when punished. An offense nowadays could also be costlier since the rules in West Ham’s case were less well defined.

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Steve Parish is risking the trust he has established with the fans by employing one of the least trustworthy men in the British game. A so-called “family club” must put beyond themselves football at times and consider the examples and precedents they set.

It’s a matter that has little to do with football; he’d very likely keep Palace up. But he could damage the club’s valuable reputation with repeats of his past action. Who knows? After all, “Big Sam” has not given any indicators that he is well and truly beyond his actions beyond expected and compulsory apologies.

Hiring a manager that has broken the rules, undermined the integrity of the sport, and sees that as okay has transformative potential for a club. CPFC 2010 has rebranded the club as an emblem of stability, authenticity, and measured progress, Allardyce violates the first two tenants.

Until something can prove that Allardyce is a trustworthy man, the Crystal Palace board must look beyond the League Table if they want any sort of moral high ground. And if you still want a football argument, it’s a bit early to hit the panic button. Palace are still out of the relegation zone and Allardyce is not the only man with the Premier League survival cheat sheet.

Parish has to serve the Palace fans in their best interests and if Allardyce is not good enough for the FA, he shouldn’t be good enough for Crystal Palace.

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