Scott McGarvey – the football agent at the centre of the Daily Telegraph sting that saw Sam Allardyce lose his job with England – has been speaking about the saga and his bid to clear his name.
McGarvey introduced Allardyce to undercover reporters he believed were businessmen representing a firm of investors earlier this year.
One video on The Daily Telegraph website allegedly showed Allardyce rebuking McGarvey for suggesting giving players “a few grand” to help recruit fellow players to a management firm.
The sting was to result in Allardyce losing his ‘dream job’ after just 67 days, with the former England boss claiming “entrapment had won”, having been seen on film explaining how to circumvent the Football Association’s rules on player transfers.
McGarvey played for Manchester United in the early 1980s and also counts Portsmouth, Carlisle United, Grimsby Town, Bristol City and Oldham Athletic among his former clubs. He also represented Scotland Under-21s.
The 53-year-old discussed recent events with Sky Sports News HQ reporter Kaveh Solhekol…
Q. How did you get involved in this?
A. I got a phone call in late June asking if I’d be interested in talking to this Meiren Sports Group, which I said I would. We arranged to meet on 1st July.
Q. What did they say to you? What did they want you to do?
A. The first meeting was about how they wanted to build an agency. They had lots of money. They wanted to put money into football. How could they go about it? Could I help them?
Q. Did you have any suspicions at all?
A. No, not at all. It was just a one-off meeting as far as I was concerned in the beginning.
Q. How did Sam Allardyce become involved?
A. I mentioned a few managers and I mentioned Sam at the beginning. They were not interested in football; they were interested in motivational speaking with managers, nothing to do with football. They asked me about the agency, how I could build it up. I said I could do this and I could do that, I could build it up, I could bring people in. Would I buy an agency? I wouldn’t unless you buy the right agency. They talked about putting money into football clubs. I said that’s what you want to do. That’s a good way forward, but the big thing… was their investment and they wanted people to do motivational speaking, so I mentioned a few managers that I thought would be good for it.
Q. So what did you say to Sam?
A. I didn’t say anything to Sam straight away because there was nothing to say. They built me up. This is not something that happened between Monday and Friday. This was over 13 weeks. Dozens and dozens of emails, hundreds of text messages, hundreds of phone calls. I met four different people saying we’re the Meiren Group. I had nothing to think there was anything wrong.
Q. How did you go about getting Sam involved? What was your relationship like?
A. I’ve been friendly with Sam for a long, long time. When I was at Man United, I played in a reserve-team game against him. I met him at a later stage in my career. We socialised in Manchester. When I finished football about 20 years ago, he was a manager and I got in contact with him because I’d become an agent.
Q. What did you tell him? How did he come to be at this meeting at the May Fair Hotel?
A. He only came for me. A hundred per cent for me. When I told him I had this opportunity. I phoned him up and said I had the chance of getting this job and it looked very good and they were looking for someone to do motivational speaking. The key to this is, I spoke to Sam when he was Sunderland manager, he wasn’t the England manager. The first meeting I had with them, Sam was Sunderland manager. I assumed it would be motivational speaking in the off season. That was all it was about. I phoned Sam and he said ‘Would it help you?’ I said it would definitely help and he said ‘Go on, lad. No problem’. That was it.
McGarvey on Allardyce’s England departure
Q. Do you feel responsible for Sam losing his job as England manager?
A. I’m devastated for him. I can’t think of anything worse that could have happened to my life.
Q. Have you tried speaking to him?
A. I spoke to Sam on the Monday [day before publication] when we’d found out it was a big con. I’d found out on Sunday evening and I’d phoned my lawyers. I came into the lawyers in the morning and Sam called me at about 10:30 and he just said: “Scotty, it’s a stitch up, you’ve been had over”. Not him, me. And I said: “I know, I’m in the lawyers”. And he said: “Just sort it, lad”. That was it.
Q. Does he feel you are responsible for his downfall?
A. He’s got to feel I’m responsible because I’m the one who’s brought him to the meeting but he’s only come for me. He’s never once spoken about money. He’s never once said anything about money. It was only: “Are you OK, lad? I’ll help you”. Do I think he holds me responsible? I think he’s known me for a long, long time. He knows that I’d never do that to him or to anybody in football.
Q. Are you surprised that he lost his job?
A. Very surprised.
Q. You think there’s been an over-reaction?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. How would you describe Sam?
A. He’s not greedy, he’s not somebody who wants money as it’s being portrayed.
Q. And in all the business dealings you’ve had with him, everything has been clean and above board?
A. Hundred per cent. You don’t deal with managers as agents. You deal with the chief executive or even the owner. The manager is never really there when it comes to doing the deal.
Q. Can you be friends with him again? Will he speak to you again?
A. I can understand if he doesn’t speak to me again. I need to respect that, but I hope not because we go back a long way. If I’ve done anything wrong in this sting, it’s that I’ve embellished some stories with the people who I thought were giving me this magnificent contract. I can understand if he doesn’t speak to me. It might take a bit of time because I know how hurt he is at losing the England job. It doesn’t matter if you’re the manager of Crewe and you lose your job but if you’re the manager of England and you lose your job after one game, it’s a joke.
Q. Can Sam bounce back from this?
A. One hundred per cent. I’ve got to hope that I’ve got the character to bounce back as well. I’m on the floor right now and it’s not a good place to be but I know Sam will bounce back because he’s been a manager for a long time and you have to be mentally strong to be a manager today. When he says he wants to get back into football, he will be inundated with offers.
Q. Do you think it’s entrapment? That’s what Sam thinks?
A. Capital E. Absolutely. Hundred per cent. This is not Monday to Friday. This is 13 weeks of dozens of emails, hundreds of texts, hundreds of calls and bringing more than seven or eight innocent people into this story.
Q. Will you hand over all that evidence? Will you co-operate with any investigation?
A. I hope there is an investigation because it should come out to show how these people have gone about their business to do what they have done.
Q. What do you think of these people?
A. I couldn’t tell you on live television. I couldn’t say what I think. They’ve ruined me.
Q. What has your life been like for the past couple of weeks?
A. Not good. Difficult. I’ve had lots of phone calls from different people in football but I’ve had lots of ‘no phone calls’ from different people in football. If I’d been knocked down by a car, I would have had a thousand phone calls. But I’ve been knocked down by a bus. I’ve got up, but not a lot of phone calls.
Q. Do you think you have a future in football?
A. I’m not really bothered about that. I’d love the public to know what happened and how they have done Sam and the two other people who were involved with me.
McGarvey on Hasselbaink
Q. One of those two other people was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. How did he get involved? Why him?
A. I’d been speaking to him for four or five months regarding players. I think he’s fantastic. I’ve only met him twice but from the conversations I had on the phone, you could tell that he was a football man. I’m more than happy to give the FA every single text message I had from Jimmy. There’s not one that’s not about football.
Regarding Jimmy, I asked him to come to a meeting to talk about motivational speaking. We had the meeting on his day off.
Q. If Sam is watching this, what would you say to him?
A. One day, I will speak to Sam. He knows me, he knows I would never do that. Anybody in football who knows me knows that I would never stitch anybody up, never mind a football person. This has ruined me, believe me.
Q. Do you feel Eric Black did anything wrong?
A. No, apart from coming for me. There was no gain in it for him coming to meet me there.
Q. One of the headlines in the Telegraph said there were eight managers who take bungs? Is this something you’ve come across in the industry?
A. Never. One hundred per cent. Never. Not one manager has asked for money from me. Not once.
Q. Why, according to the Telegraph, did you say you knew of four managers who take bribes?
A. I can’t believe I would have named one manager, never mind four. What I would say is that this job opportunity came up. They’ve entrapped me into a situation where they were giving me financial backing. I’m seeing this opportunity. I had this big vision and at every meeting, it built up and built up and built up.
Q. Did they ever pay you?
A. Nothing. It’s easy now after the event sitting and thinking I’ve been duped, I’ve been had over and I need to get that out to the footballing world. They need to know that I’ve been duped. If I was a football agent, which I may not be any more, the first thing I would say to my footballers is: Have no new friends – and that’s a sad state of affairs.
Q. People will be asking – why did you fall for this?
A. If I had a few quid, I wouldn’t have taken this job in the first place. I signed the contract on September 22 in Southampton – consultancy contract, Range Rover pick-up, all expenses paid. I never got a payment. I’d promised to pay my granddaughter’s school fees. How do you tell people you can’t do that now?
I want to clear my name because I socialise in football circles and I’d hate to be the person sat in the corner who no-one wants to talk to. That won’t happen to me. What am I going to do? I need to do something, but I’m more concerned about getting the truth out. I’m more concerned that people would see Sam, Eric and Jimmy – who’ve done nothing – in a bad light.
Especially Eric and Sam, who’ve been my friends and have come for me to these meetings to help me. And if it had been a real company, it would have been a big help. If you’re a footballer or manager now, it’s a sad state of affairs, when new people come into your life… how could you trust anybody when people are going and doing what they are doing to the lengths that they’ve gone to? To ruin Scott McGarvey? Who’s Scott McGarvey?
A full version of this interview can be seen on Sky Sports News HQ.