ICT Views

Ethics, Integrity and Sam Allardyce

by: (Associate Director, Research and Development) on

Just what are ethics and integrity? This is a question I’ve been pondering over the last 24 hours. I’m not sure how easy it is to answer. Maybe you can help me.

I’m pleased to report that I’m not in any moral dilemma myself – but I have been following the story of the departure of Sam Allardyce (the England national football Manager) from his role after a measly one game and 67 days in charge. 

Own Goal

‘Big Sam’ left his role following a story published in the Telegraph. This was big news in the UK, where the steady decline of the national side seems to have had a direct correlation to the rise of the riches around the ‘product’ provided by the Premier League.

Allardyce was caught in a classic ‘sting’ operation. In this case, reporters posed as representatives of  a fictitious company and proposed third party ownership of players (in contravention of a variety of international football rules).

Stings are not a new thing. In fact, it’s something we’ve seen a lot of in the UK (see the ‘fake sheikh’ in particular – notorious for this sort of activity).

It made me think – who is in the wrong here? The stinger or the stingee? This is where it comes back to ethics and integrity I think.

Definition and Application

The Oxford Dictionary defines ethics as: “moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity”.

Integrity is defined as: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”.

Hmm. So it can be the behaviour or the conducting of the activity and/or the honesty or morality.

The behaviour of Allardyce led to his release from the role of England Manager. But arguably the sting (the activity) precipitated the behaviour. Allardyce was honest in his appraisal of circumvention of third party ownership,but the reporters were dishonest around their intentions.

Anyone Else Confused?

Allardyce stated “entrapment has won”.

Although he apologised and acknowledged “it was an error of judgement on my behalf”, there appears to be a suggestion that it was the reporters who had acted unethically or without integrity. So is poor judgement ethically wrong? It seems to me that it’s an indicator that moral principles were not adhered to. Does an honest answer on how to achieve something that you shouldn’t be doing demonstrate you are acting with integrity? Surely not.

OK let’s flip this and consider the point of view of the reporters. 

We can infer that they had done their research and had set this up hoping for the result they got. Hence the entrapment aspect referred to.

But if they undertook this unethical act hoping to expose something even more unethical – is that them actually demonstrating ethics and integrity?

Does the end justify the means? Honestly, I’m not sure. I guess it probably does. But it also makes me wonder about the meaning of personal ethics and integrity.

I can’t speak for Sam Allardyce or any ‘sting’ victim (if victim is the right word) but it almost reads as though they feel the issue isn’t with their action, so much as the fact that they were caught. Which is a bit more sinister for me. That means that ethics and integrity are not what you think/believe in – but what you tell people you think/believe in.

It reminds me of a quote I've seen quite often on LinkedIn:


And I guess that is what it is all about. 


Maybe the Football Association agree. They called the conduct "inappropriate" and Allardyce left their employment by mutual consent.

In a time where FIFA have come under scrutiny for corruption and it seems there may be additional revelations from the Telegraph around the state of the English game, it was pleasing to see the FA ‘conduct themselves’ with ‘strong moral principles’ (see early definitions of ethics and integrity).

So what then are ethics and integrity? To some extent they seem to be a fluid concept, dependent on the individual and situation. Alternatively, they are an end result, driven by an individual or situation. So maybe I asked the wrong question – it’s not what they are but how we live them.

What I have come to realise as I’m writing this is that my view may be different to yours – but that fundamentally, it is about doing the right thing. And not just when you think someone is watching.


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Dave R said...
Thanks Andy - happy to get any other views too!
October 4, 2016 08:19
Andy Clarke said...
If integrity is defined as: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” would it be possible to consider a model across a range of morality? Dishonesty at the one far end and then moving through a lack of integrity, poor judgement, to being completely honest with the strongest moral principles at the other end. You could then plot specific behaviour somewhere along the line.

You raise some interesting points, particularly around the actions of the reporters. The idea of an unethical act hoping to expose something even more unethical. That’s a dangerous route to go down and you can end up with the equivalent of ‘noble cause corruption’ which I came across in my police service. Where traditional corruption is defined by personal gain, noble cause corruptions form when someone is convinced of their righteousness. The extreme end is planting of evidence but it can take more innocuous forms, with rationalisation by the individual straight out of the Cressey model (1).

Entrapment is an interesting area in law, with the person involved described as an agent provocateur. A 1929 Royal Commission decided that it was "a person who entices another to commit an express breach of the law which he would not otherwise have committed, and then proceeds or informs against him in respect of such offence." And that the definition assumes but does not define the standards of decency and fair play.

Fair play, old chap! What a quaint English notion and so linked to the sporting world of whites and the sound of leather on willow.

So you can entice someone to tell you how to circumvent legal restrictions on third party ownership, but is that fair play; they give you an answer but can it ever be honest, surely it’s just the right answer in fact, which doesn’t equate to honesty? Can you tell me how to commit an investment fraud? Yes I can, here it is…right in fact, but honest??

These are some great topics you have raised and ideal for lively discussions in workshops. Perhaps some of our readers with criminology or psychology backgrounds may like to comment in a more scholarly way than my layman's view?

1. Cressey, D. R. (1953). Other People’s Money. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith
October 3, 2016 10:35


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