Senior regional press figures have defended the Daily Telegraph’s investigation which led to England football manager Sam Allardyce leaving his position.
The Telegraph revealed on Tuesday how Allardyce allegedly offered advice to undercover journalists on how to “get around” player transfer rules at a meeting set up after he took the job with the national team.
Former Northern Echo editor Peter Barron described Allardyce’s departure as “another illustration of the importance of investigative journalism” on social media, but received responses from readers criticising the journalists involved.
However, in a piece for the Echo, Peter defended the investigation.
He wrote: “It’s remarkable, isn’t it, that the press can be blamed for exposing someone on £3m a year, in a position of huge power and responsibility, who was offering advice on how to bend the rules of his employer, and seeking £400,000 in the process. Imagine if you’d done that to your employer.
“So why was it right for the Daily Telegraph to use undercover reporters in a sting on Big Sham, sorry Big Sam? The test in the newspaper code of practice is whether the Daily Telegraph had a justifiable public interest reason for launching the covert investigation.
“Had it been a ‘fishing expedition’, with a newspaper hoping to catch him out without any foundation for assigning undercover reporters, it would have been wrong.
“But, according to the Telegraph, it was part of a 10-month investigation into dodgy dealing in football, which began after the newspaper received information about wrongdoing by specific managers and agents.”
Peter went on to state there had been a “clear public interest” in exposing Allardyce as someone prepared to undermine his employer the Football Association for personal gain.
He added: “On the face of it, this falls within the industry guidelines laid down after the Leveson Inquiry by Ipso. Fishing expeditions, such as the abhorrent and illegal use of phone hacking by journalists at the News of the World, are very wrong.
“Investigations, based on solid information and in the public interest, must always be right if we are to shine a light on unscrupulous behaviour by those in power.”
Other figures within the industry also criticised television presenter Jake Humprhey, who said on Twitter that Allardyce had been “undone by a trio of greed, naivety and our poisonous press”, a comment he later retracted.
Matt Walsh, senior lecturer in journalism and media studies at the University of Northampton, has also defended the Telegraph.
In a blog, he wrote: “Football has long had a troubled history with men who buy their way to success with brown envelopes stuffed with cash.
“The investigation and exposure of corrupt business practices should be a primary duty of a watchdog press and those paid handsomely by the game should be thankful that the disinfecting light of publicity is being shone on some of its shadier practices.”