Cold? Vincent Tan has had this dish in the freezer, topped with razor blades. Widely vilified by Cardiff supporters, who blamed the inscrutable foreign owner for the departure of their beloved Malky Mackay and the relegation that followed, Tan has been itching to serve this house special at football’s high table.
Yet one man’s revenge is the least of the tawdry tale that Tan exposes. It has taken the moral sword of a despised ogre, dismissed as a capitalistic football prospector, to clean up a mess that lays bare the dark soul and lad culture that still infects the game.
Questionable transfer dealings, the breach of FA regulations over the “spygate” team sheet and an apparent mountain of text traffic tattooed with casual racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are today reported to be all over the work of Mackay and his cohorts – though Mackay says never wrote any sexist or homophobic messages.
Tan would have done the game a service in bringing this to light, but it would be madness to think this cancer stops at the Stone Age doors of Mackay and Iain Moody, kicked out of Cardiff by Tan last season only to find a loving home at Selhurst Park.
After the rupture in the management structure of Crystal Palace, which led to Moody’s resignation as sporting director today, we know how this world turned. From the dossier of texts and emails numbering in excess of 170,000 and other material presented to the FA by Cardiff’s lawyers, we learn about the prehistoric attitudes that informed those making the club’s transfer deals.
This stuff is reported to have been garnered in a dawn raid on the London home of Moody by lawyers Mishcon de Reya acting on behalf of Cardiff via a High Court order. The removal of Moody as head of recruitment at Cardiff last October set in motion a remarkable chain of events that also cost Mackay his job as manager 10 weeks later.
The knock at Moody’s door at first light last March was part of a £750,000 investigation launched by Cardiff into the club’s transfer activity under Mackay. Eight transfers are under scrutiny. Bound by FA rules under the umbrella of “aggravated misconduct” regarding communications, Cardiff were compelled to alert the FA to the presence of the emails unearthed.
It is believed both Mackay, who launched a £7.5m legal claim against Tan after his sacking in December, and Moody understood that the emails and texts had been passed on to Cardiff. Two months later in May, Mackay said he was no longer in dispute with his old club and spoke of his nemesis in revised terms.
“I have reached a settlement agreement dropping all claims I have made against Cardiff City Football Club. The club’s owner, Mr Vincent Tan, invested heavily in the club and supported our decisions in our push for promotion to the Premier League. Without him this would not have been possible. If I have caused any offence to anyone during this time, especially to Vincent Tan, then I apologise without reservation.”
Now we know why. The low lights that emerge from their discoveries, if the allegations are accepted or proven, are rightly ruinous for Mackay and Moody. If the game is to purge the accompanying stench then this grim episode should not be taken in isolation but as representative of the way the minds of some in football, and yes at the very top, still work. Mackay and Moody will then not just be the perpetrators of objectionable views but the product of a culture that tolerates them.
The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, must find the sexist text allegations uncomfortable reading after the early summer disclosures that identified his liking for sexist slap and tickle via the ether.
The Cardiff collection apparently produced this text to a player with a female agent: “I hope she’s looking after your needs. I bet you’d love a bounce on her falsies.” And this about an official at another club: “He’s a snake, a gay snake. Not to be trusted”.
The half-witted texts failed to distinguish between South Korea and China in this beauty after the signing of Kim Bo-kyung: “Fkn chinkys. Fk it. There’s enough dogs in Cardiff for us all to go around.” What’s in a country, eh boys?” And this enlightened reference to football agent Phil Smith: “Go on, fat Phil. Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers.” Regrettably there was more, heaps of the stuff, for the exposure of which Tan deserves our appreciation and an apology from all those who held him responsible for the unravelling of Cardiff’s Premier League dream.
There was always something uncomfortable, racist even, some might say about the easy condemnation of Tan and the uncritical acceptance of Mackay’s version of events.
Sure, Tan did not help himself with the unsympathetic imposition of red over blue in the Cardiff kit switch, dismissing a century-old tradition and the deep attachment of supporters to the Bluebird ethos. And yes, he is a moneybags collector who saw not a football club but a trinket that gave him a pass to the upper echelons of the game. But in acquiring Cardiff he broke no law and offended no principle in the market economy that governs the beautiful game.
In May after Cardiff’s relegation Tan spoke through a tongue tied by the investigation we now know all about to hint at the trouble ahead and to give some justification for his actions. “The hero of the fans. They should ask why he apologises? They should find out from him. Legally, I’m not supposed to say. I wish I could.
“Ask him why he apologises, who thinks I did so much injustice to him. This great hero almost killed this club. I’m not enjoying this but I have responsibility. My family members think I should just sell and get out. But sometimes you get into something and you have to go through it and take it to a good ending.”
Well said, Vincent, an unlikely hero purging football of its sinister underbelly.