Following Friday’s headspinning crisis (what crisis?), the news that Harry Redknapp is being investigated for tax avoidance rather than fraud came as welcome relief for many Spurs fans. However, there’s more than enough to suggest that a world of murky dealings and undisclosed payments are about to be exposed. If not a criminal act, then it’s more than enough to cast a shadow.
This blog’s views on the non-crisis are here in last Friday’s blog piece http://wp.me/pzmOo-3L I certainly have not got it in for Harry: his rescue act has been a virtuoso performance. However, it’s the club I care most about and there’s no doubt that there will be unwanted attention on Harry and the Lane in the weeks and months to come, although his media friends will protect him and us from the worst tabloid excesses.
Whatever took place, and we will probably never know the full story, happened well away from Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs are not culpable, thank goodness. It would be interesting to know if the topic came up when he was offered the job, though. Wonder what he told Levy, and how Levy checked that out. The appointment all happened very quickly, so did Levy just take him at his word? If so, that’s a risk.
Redknapp vehemently denies any wrongdoing. He states that the sum in question is money due to him as part of his contract at Portsmouth, where he took a cut of the income from outgoing transfers, and he has paid his taxes. This comes after extensive investigations into underhand payments in football, provoked by the Panorama programme that pointed an accusing finger at several high profile figures in the game and then further pursued by the police and Operation Quest, the F.A.’s own inquiry. No prosecutions have as yet resulted. Many feel the whole thing has been a damp squib, with these bodies unable to penetrate the twin walls of silence and conspiracy that protect those in the game. However, it’s emerged that action is on hold until the tax investigations have been completed.
One idea that comes to mind is: they can’t get him on fraud so they’ll have a damn good go at tax. Normally in these circumstances, I understand that the Revenue negotiate a cash settlement with the individual and then, provided that that individual has divulged all his income, the matter is closed. However, I fear that Redknapp may be used as a scapegoat and therefore this option will not be left open for him. Under this line of reasoning, the powers that be will use him as an example because they want to send out a warning to the game at large and they do not want all their investigative efforts to go unrewarded. Let’s hope I’m being overly pessimistic, because any proven wrongdoing and Levy will have no alternative but dismissal. Otherwise, the club will hold off on action until the case is resolved.
Leaving aside what it means for Spurs, it sheds further light on the shady world of football contracts and transfers. If a manager gets cash for selling his own players, one inescapable implication is that at the very least if a bid comes in, his own interests (i.e. the possibility of cash) might conflict with those of the club for whom he works. Would his decision on who to sell be influenced by the size of his cut?
Incentive bonuses are part and parcel of modern business, but this particular arrangement has no place in football. I work in social care for a charity, a world as far away from the business of Premier League football as could be. Colleagues who work for some private companies are on performance related pay. In my world, this means increasing the number of children who are placed with carers. The more children, the more money they get.
They could do this by working hard to get more good carers. Or they could drop standards, have anyone as a carer and still place the child. They get more money, their company gets more money, but it does not necessarily mean that they provide a better service to children.
It’s the same thing in football – the manager gets more, maybe the club gets money but in the long run it does not necessarily mean that the team does better. Harry may or may not have done this in the past; certainly in the highly unlikely event of any West Ham fan reading this, they would at this point chuckle at some of the players he bought and sold who frankly did not have a major impact on the club’s fortunes…
If any manager has a provision such as this in their contract, I as a fan would be concerned about even the possibility that standards would be compromised. The good thing for Spurs is that I’m convinced Levy would not countenance such a clause. I’ve been extremely critical of him in the past over the lack of direction at the club but he’s having a good season. His probity and business acumen leaves us in a strong financial position and also protects us against this sort of dodgy dealing. In the transfer market, he successfully used all our market advantages to lever a couple of good deals. We had cash, Portsmouth needed cash and quickly, so we get first Crouch and then Kranjcar at decent prices. With the Kyles, we had cash plus players Sheffield United might want to loan, and crucially our main rivals in that deal, Everton, had neither. Finally, I’ve written several pieces praising his involvement with the wider community and with disadvantaged groups.
Redknapp himself believes he can sort it out this week, and the sums involved are small, given that by his own admission he’s paid the Revenue £10m over the years, so a settlement is likely, unless there are more skeletons in the cupboard. It’s nothing to do with Spurs, but no off the field troubles should get in the way of our progress on the pitch.