First he loves us, then he’s leaving, now he’s back for good. That’s the story of Harry Redknapp’s love affair with Tottenham Hotspur. And the whole crisis came and went in 36 hours. Here’s how.
Yesterday a well-respected poster on a long established Spurs messageboard, who is not given to predictions let alone outrageous ITK, made a brief comment, stating that there was activity in the investigation of the transfer of Amdy Faye when Redknapp was manager of Portsmouth. Papers had gone to chambers (i.e. presumably to a barrister) and there were serious questions to answer. That was all, no further details were offered.
Accusations of illegal payments have been around for as long as football has been played. In 2006 Panorama’s undercover report alleged that several high profile figures in our professional game had been involved in accepting money during the course of transfer negotiations. Included were Redknapp and Kevin Bond. No prosecution has ever been brought on the basis of the evidence revealed either by the programme, the subsequent police investigations or the Operation Quest inquiry set up by the FA to look at the wider problem within the game. Neither has anyone successfully sued the BBC; Bond dropped his pending case in the summer.
However, David Conn reported in the Guardian on June 24th that the FA are keeping their powder dry until the results of an investigation into unpaid tax are available. In Conn’s words:
“That began as a City of London Police investigation the police consistently described as into football “corruption”, with dramatic dawn raids on the houses of Redknapp and the agent Willie McKay. Redknapp successfully sued the police for conducting the arrest unlawfully and the judge, Lord Justice Latham, described the case as follows.
“It was suspected that [Harry Redknapp] as manager of [Portsmouth], together with the managing director Peter Storrie, and the club’s then owner and chairman Milan Mandaric, may have conspired together to make disguised payments to a player, Amdy Faye, using the agent William McKay to receive payments offshore.”
Guardian June 24th.
So if the case is re-surfacing, it’s interesting but hardly the stuff of front-pages. Certainly the club would have known about these issues when both Bond and Redknapp were appointed as it is old news.
Later yesterday the blogs and messageboards picked up the snippet and it flashed around the net. Also nothing out of the ordinary here.
From then on, the story shifts away from the courts and onto the net. The early morning passed as normal, with the usual rumours and previews of the match tomorrow, including this blog’s. At 11.12 there was a statement from William Hill. The odds on Redknapp being the next Premier League manager to lose his job had plummeted from 40/1 to just 5/1. “Rumours were sweeping the football world”, or so Hills claimed. Their spokesman admitted that it was probably “unsubstantiated gossip”.
This cyber crisis now had a life of its own. Whatever the bandwagon, everyone was jumping aboard, creating an unstoppable momentum. By 12.30, the odds had fallen to 2/1. A little later Paddypower had stopped taking bets. Several other sites picked up the story, still without any factual basis other than the bookies’ odds. The Mail was the first of the dailies at 12.20. By 14.24 the Metro’s headline is, “Has Redknapp left Spurs?” at half past his odds are down to evens.
Around the same time, good messageboard sources reported that there was no truth to these rumours and as I write (5pm), official denials have followed.
So what happened? The answer is almost certainly nothing. The implications of an unsubstantiated messageboard post (I’m sure it was a true account of the information to hand but at no time was this independently corroborated in any of the accounts that I have mentioned today) have spiralled out of control. It’s a crisis that has been entirely created by the internet rumour-mill. Reading the rumours on the net is great fun usually, if sometimes, when my mood is downcast, a little irritating. But we all know that it has to be treated with caution. Don’t we?
There is another less plausible but sinister explanation, that we have been the victims of a betting scam. All I understand about betting is that you give the bookie your money and never see it again. This scam, however, has been tried before this season, with bets on Benitez to leave Liverpool and Ribery to arrive. Basically the price is driven down in the short term so the perpetrators can achieve long term gains by ‘buying back’ when Harry stays.
The real issue is the case itself, and that has always been hanging around, like a sword of Damocles dangling above the future prosperity of our club. We had conveniently put this to one side as Harry has done such a fine job for us on the field, but the fact is, we employed two people, Redknapp and Bond, knowing that their past was at best murky. If the problems, the real problems that is, emerge from the shadows into the full glare of the spotlight, the whole club could be tainted.