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“Entrapment has won”- How sports stars should respond to media sting operations

Gavel in front of UK Flag
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 By Matthew McDonagh

The former England Manager, Sam Allardyce’s, recent assertion that “entrapment has won” was a response to the continuing investigations of The Daily Telegraph into corruption in football that had led to the termination of his role as the England Football Manager.[1]

Allardyce’s role lasted a mere 67 days before he left by mutual consent. He had attended a meeting at the request of his friend, Scott McGarvey, a football agent. McGarvey was meeting a group of businessmen purportedly representing a firm of investors. McGarvey hoped that Allardyce’s attendance would impress the businessmen. In fact, the businessmen were undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph. At the meeting, amongst other things, Allardyce suggested that it was possible to by-pass rules on the third-party ownership of players and that he knew of agents that were “doing this all the time.” The Daily Telegraph passed on the covert recordings of this conversation and other related matters to the Police and The Football Association (“The FA”).

Whilst Allardyce attempts to restore his reputation as the new manager of Crystal Palace, it now seems unlikely that he will face criminal charges arising from his general behaviour. However, it remains unclear if he will face disciplinary charges for not acting in the best interests of the game and/or was bringing the game into disrepute (see Rule E3 of The Rules of The FA[2]). 

This case does concern the use of evidence that has been obtained during a media sting operation and how might such evidence be used in any subsequent proceedings. An awareness of the criminal jurisprudence in relation to entrapment is necessary to understand how the courts and regulatory bodies will react to evidence obtained by the media in this way. Once the law is set out, this article seeks to guide those who might be caught up in a media sting operations on how best to protect themselves.

Accordingly, this article examines: 

  • How the criminal courts treat evidence adduced by entrapment:
    • The law on entrapment by the State (i.e. obtained by police);
    • The law on entrapment by the Media (i.e. obtained by undercover journalists as part of a “media sting operation”);
  • How disciplinary sports panels treat evidence adduced by entrapment;
  • A summary of key points;
  • Practical guidance on what to do if you or someone you represent are caught up in a sting. 

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Matthew McDonagh

Matthew McDonagh

Matthew McDonagh is a renowned trial advocate who appears on a regular basis in the criminal and civil jurisdiction and before regulatory tribunals. He is regarded as a fearsome advocate by his opponents but presents with a charm and charisma that is regularly remarked upon by Judges.

His particular expertise is in the forensic analysis and cross-examination of complicated expert evidence at which he excels. This excellence is recognised by Matthew’s rankings over a number of years in legal publications including Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500.

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