Football: Anatomy of a deal: Paul Gascoigne's move to Lazio

Premier League inquiry into transfer dealings
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The Independent Online
The Premier League's inquiry into transfer dealings offers a remarkable insight into the running of Tottenham in the summer of 1991 as the club attempted to sell Paul Gascoigne to Lazio.

The club needed to sell because of financial difficulties and a price of pounds 6.7m was provisionally agreed. The deal was placed in jeopardy because of Gascoigne's serious injury in the 1991 FA Cup final, after which the whole deal became a matter of negotiation between Spurs and Lazio.

On 20 June, Spurs received a fax from Lazio's solicitors agreeing to pay pounds 5.5m, but for some reason this was not seen by Terry Venables or Alan Sugar who was on the point of taking over at Spurs at exactly the same time. As Spurs tried to revive the deal, Venables involved Gino Santin, an Italian restauranter, with whom he had had previous dealings. Meetings between the two clubs did not conclude successfully as Lazio were prepared to pay only pounds 4.8m, which Venables rejected as not enough.

There was then a period of some confusion with Santin and Sugar separately negotiating with Lazio while Venables was on holiday in Bermuda. During this time, Santin took a call on his portable phone while at Wimbledon. Santin told the inquiry: "I got this guy from Lazio calling me back and telling me, laughing in my face and telling me, `We already clinched the deal.' He said: `We just clinched the deal with Mr Sugar for much less than what you wanted,' and laughing in my face. I was mad."

Venables then suggested to Sugar that he "butt out" and the club wrote to Lazio informing them that Santin was representing them. On 19 July, Santin spoke to Lazio, and on the basis of that conversation a provisional deal was done. After setting out the terms of that deal the report continues:

1.23 According to Mr Santin, before the Wimbledon telephone call he had been negotiating with Lazio for a price of pounds 5.2m. He told us that he discovered that the deal proposed by Mr Sugar had not gone through, not from Tottenham but from his contacts in Rome. It was after this that he procured the authorisations to act on Tottenham's behalf. He told us that when he had received his authorisation: "I phoned the guy at Lazio and I started laughing in his face because I said to him there is no deal, there is no more deal. Now you talk to me, and we start talking about the pounds 5.5m, the guy goes nuts."

1.24 It was a long and tortuous road from that point to the point at which Gascoigne's transfer was finally completed. There were many negotiating difficulties, relating amongst other things to the question of Gascoigne's fitness and to the friendly matches between the clubs. Matters were not made any easier when Gascoigne sustained a further non-footballing injury. However, nobody disputes that Mr Santin was responsible for the transaction which eventually took place between Lazio and Tottenham. What is far from clear, though, is whether if Tottenham had handled matters differently they would have been able to obtain the same deal without the intervention of Mr Santin.

1.25 The transfer figure of pounds 5.5m was a figure which Lazio's solicitors had indicated to Tottenham's solicitors Lazio were prepared to pay in their letter dated 20 June, 1991. The mystery of why this figure appears not to have been known either to Mr Venables or to Mr Sugar remains unresolved. The most likely explanation is a breakdown in communication. At what point and why the breakdown in communication occurred is not plain but in the turmoil of the takeover it would not have been difficult for the letter to be overlooked. Certainly the relevant letter was later to be found on Tottenham's files and with the benefit of hindsight it is possible to suggest ways in which virtually everyone involved on the Tottenham side could have acted differently. The reason for Lazio's subsequent retreat to a figure of pounds 4.825m has not become clear but may be due to alterations in the other terms of their offer, particularly those relating to fitness and performance. Without Mr Santin it is at least very possible that the transaction would have proceeded at that figure. Mr Santin must therefore have the credit for obtaining the additional sum for Tottenham, even though the task of getting that sum may well have been considerably easier than might at first sight appear.

1.26 Further, two other elements in the transaction which Mr Santin negotiated had already been the subject of discussion and apparent approval at an earlier stage. They were the two friendly games, and the payment to Tottenham of the interest on the transfer fee pending Paul Gascoigne becoming fit to play football again. The further benefit which Tottenham eventually obtained from a deal with Sky television to screen the two games for a fee of pounds 200,000, was negotiated between Mr Sugar and Mr [Sam] Chisholm. Mr Santin played no part in the negotiation of this contract although he was present and assisted on the day of the match when problems arose about whether Sky would be permitted to transmit the game played in Rome.

1.27 After Mr Santin had reached his agreement with Lazio for the sale of Gascoigne at pounds 5.5m and the other benefits for Tottenham which included all gate receipts from the home game and part of the receipts from the game in Rome, he wanted to be paid. There was a heated three-way telephone conversation between Mr Santin, Mr Venables, and Mr Sugar in which Mr Santin put forward his case for payment. Mr Sugar was outraged. He had been told originally by Mr Venables that Mr Santin would do it "for a drink". He had not appreciated the change in Mr Santin's role from being a translator turning up at one meeting as a favour to that of a negotiator expecting to be paid a substantial fee for achieving a contract. Similarly, although Mr Venables appreciated that Mr Santin's new role merited some payment he was horrified at the level of payment which Mr Santin now demanded.

1.28 Eventually the Tottenham board considered the position at their meeting on 12 September 1991. At that meeting it was reported that Mr [Dennis] Roach, who had been the original agent engaged to market Paul Gascoigne, had agreed to accept pounds 27,500 in full and final settlement of his claim. The minutes went on to record as follows:

"There was a general discussion concerning fees payable to Mr Santin in connection with the Gascoigne disposal. Mr Venables was given authority by the Board to negotiate further with Mr Santin. It is hoped that his fee can be limited to approximately pounds 150,000."

1.29 Mr Venables did negotiate with Mr Santin. Eventually they agreed a fee of pounds 200,000. On 30 July, 1992 the minutes of Tottenham Board meeting contained the following item:

"Gascoigne/Lazio the anticipated fee to the agent in connection with the transfer of Gascoigne to Lazio is currently pounds 200,000 plus VAT. The accounts should be amended to reflect this."

1.30 Following receipt of an invoice from Anglo European Market Research and Consulting Company, the fee of pounds 200,000 was paid by cheque dated 7 September, 1992 drawn on the account of Tottenham Hotspur Football and Athletic Co Ltd and signed, with appropriate Board approval, by Mr Sugar and Mr Sandy. The cheque was delivered to Mr Santin by a courier under cover of a compliments slip from Mr Sandy, the Tottenham finance director.

The inquiry concluded that Santin's involvement was a breach of FA rules, but that "given the length of time that has passed, the prevalence of breaches of this Rule and the subsequent rules changes" it proposes that the Premier League should not make a formal report on the matter to the FA. It also says that there had been "some veiled suggestions that some part of this fee was paid back by Mr Santin to Mr Venables", but that it was satisfied that this was not so.

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