Harry Redknapp was dramatically cleared of tax evasion charges yesterday by a unanimous jury verdict, opening the way for the Tottenham Hotspur manager to be appointed as Fabio Capello's successor with England.
The 64-year-old was cleared at Southwark Crown Court after five hours of deliberations by the jury, which returned its verdict to a packed courtroom with reporters and members of the public sitting on the floor because of the premium on space. Redknapp embraced his co-defendant, Milan Mandaric, his former Portsmouth chairman, who also faced two charges of cheating the public revenue.
Keeping his emotions in check to deliver a statement on the steps of the court 30 minutes later, Redknapp said that the 13-day case had been a "nightmare". The prosecution had painted him as a "greedy" man who had accepted payments totalling £189,000 from Mandaric into an offshore Monaco bank account in order to avoid tax.
The Spurs manager's defence counsel John Kelsey-Fry QC pointed out on Monday that, had his client been trying to evade tax then Redknapp stood to make just £30,717 more than he would have done had the first so-called off-the-record bonus in 2002 been paid through the books of Portsmouth.
Redknapp paid tribute to his legal team of Kelsey-Fry and solicitor Jane Glass, of BCL Burton Copeland, both of whom he described as "fantastic". He was supported throughout the case by Spurs, in particular, the club's director Donna Cullen, football administrator Darren Eales and press officer Simon Felstein, who were in court most days.
Redknapp said: "The support I've had from everybody at Tottenham and the support from [chairman] Daniel Levy who, if he ever felt there was a problem when he gave me this job – this was going on over three years ago – would never have employed me. He knew this case should never have come to court and I have to thank the fans at Tottenham.
"The other night, at the Wigan game, was the most moving I've ever felt. For me, personally, to have them singing my name throughout the game, while all this was going on, will always be special to me and I'll never forget that. The most important thing, obviously, is my family, who have been pulled through it the last five years it's been hanging over us.
"I'm looking forward to getting home and seeing my wife, Sandra, and getting away from all of this. It really has been a nightmare, I've got to be honest, it's been five years and this case should never have come to court. It was horrendous.
"It was a unanimous decision, the jury were absolutely unanimous there was no case to answer and I'm pleased we can go home and get on with my life."
It can now be reported that the former Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie and Mandaric were both cleared of tax evasion charges related to the former Newcastle player Amdy Faye in a trial last year. That case could not be reported until the completion of the Redknapp case. The Storrie and Mandaric case further delayed the start of the second case involving Redknapp.
The lead investigating officer, detective inspector David Manley of City of London police, was also in court for the verdict yesterday. It was Manley whom Redknapp accused of "staring" at him while he was giving evidence. Redknapp left the courtroom swiftly with his son Jamie after the verdict. Judge Anthony Leonard had earlier warned against any noise in reaction to the verdicts being delivered
The former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson said that he believed Redknapp would get the job in charge of the national team in July. He said: "I think Redknapp will be a very, very good choice. He's English; he knows his football. He is doing a great job with Tottenham and has done a great job with every team he's had in the past, so I guess it will be him.
"You need to be an experienced manager used to dealing with the big names and some knowledge about international football would help. I think Harry has all these things."
'Now to win the league': Reaction on Twitter and beyond
Former Portsmouth board member Fred Dinenage
"I'm delighted for Harry. This case should never have been brought – it's yet another waste of time and money. Harry is an extremely astute businessman who would never have jeopardised his career and family over a relatively small amount of money."
"Will Harry and Milan get compensation for the turmoil they have gone through over the last few years?"
"Delighted for Harry & Family. Name cleared. Now manage your country already. #England."
"Harry found not guilty. Great news for him, his family, Spurs and quite probably England."
Former England manager Graham Taylor
"Harry Redknapp has been proved innocent. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and now he can get on with his life. If the FA have any intent when Fabio Capello comes to the end of his reign, there is now no longer any embarrass-ment."
Tottenham Hotspur club statement
"Everyone at the club is delighted for Harry and his family. This has been hanging over him for over four years and the last two weeks have been particularly difficult. We are pleased to see this resolved and we all look forward to the rest of the season."
"Multi-million pound investigation of Redknapp spanning 5yrs.... who foots that bill?? You/me + all the other tax payers! Great to see Harry cleared of any wrong doing. Glad for him and the Redknapp family."
"Harry R expressing thanks to Daniel Levy for standing by him for 3 years, surely no way he will show disloyalty and leave Spurs for England. Now will have a clear head to win the league."