The world has changed – now show us the books

 

Harry Redknapp's innocence was no surprise to his legal team, who had been saying for months the charges should never have been brought.

But while last week's not guilty verdict was an obvious relief to Redknapp, the evidence presented at Southwark Crown Court raises questions about how football is run. For despite all the money in the game, it is still more like a cottage industry whose practices most other businesses would find unacceptable.

We knew that football was a big business. But what the Redknapp hearing did was provide striking evidence that the game can reward managers so handsomely that bankers' eyes would water.

Portsmouth paid Redknapp more than £4m per year – four times the bonus RBS's Stephen Hester felt compelled to refuse after a public outcry. Consider that Redknapp was managing a club not sure of their Premier League status; Hester has been trying to rescue one of our major banks whose collapse was felt to be so unthinkable that the taxpayer now owns 83 per cent of it.

But, despite the high wages in football, a manager can also legitimately receive a commission from the sale of a player. This system developed when clubs had little money and they would use the commission to supplement a manager's meagre wages. Today most businesses would see such payments as potential conflicts of interest. That these payments exist shows how removed the game still is from what would be considered acceptable modern corporate behaviour.

However, perhaps the most revealing thing about the trial was that English football still shrouds itself in secrecy. We discover the secrets of the game not because the football authorities want to be transparent but because of events beyond their control.

The Revenue learned that Redknapp had opened his Monaco account because he told the Stevens inquiry about it. One reason that inquiry was launched in 2006 was because Sven Goran Eriksson, the then England manager, claimed in a News of the World sting that bungs were common in the English game.

This led to an outcry and the Premier League hired Lord Stevens. His public report did not mention Redknapp's account but the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner told the Revenue. The conclusion is that if Eriksson had not been deceived by the "Fake Sheikh" of a now defunct paper, there would have been no Stevens inquiry and no public knowledge of how transfers work.

In the Redknapp case there was no question of a bung being paid despite that term being used in court, to his intense annoyance. The commission he received on the Crouch sale was legitimate. Yet it is worth looking back at how we first learned of bungs back in 1993. Then, as in this case, a secret tumbled out, not because the game's authorities revealed it but as a by-product of unrelated events. The word "bung" came up in an affidavit filed by Alan Sugar during a battle for control of Tottenham with Terry Venables.

Bitter as their rivalry was, it was by no means certain the case would end up in the High Court. But Venables, outraged that Sugar had sacked him as chief executive of the club, took legal action. That led Sugar to reveal that Venables had told him Brian Clough liked a bung and generally preferred the money to be handed over at a motorway service station.

I broke the original bungs story, along with Jeff Randall. In 1992 Tottenham paid a bung of £50,000 to Clough, then the Nottingham Forest manager, when they bought Teddy Sheringham. Sugar's allegations were examined by a three-man inquiry of Rick Parry, then chief executive of the Premier League, Robert Reid QC and Steve Coppell. They took five years to report and had to interview the witnesses again and again as many of them kept changing their evidence.

In the end, Reid and Parry were convinced that Clough was guilty but they could not convince Coppell. Many have seen this as Coppell following football's law of omerta but by then Clough had retired for health reasons and the Football Association decided not to charge him. Parry thinks the FA were wrong; strong action would have shown football was serious about getting its house clean.

The FA did charge George Graham in 1995. He had received a bung of £425,000 when manager of Arsenal and was fined £50,000 and banned for a year. Shrewdly advised by his lawyers, he said the bung was an "unsolicited gift".

The FA were worried about how Graham might react if they were too harsh with him. As the FA chief executive Graham Kelly said when questioned about the leniency: "Our lawyers have warned us to be careful about restraint of trade."

So despite illegal payments being made to managers over transfers, the authorities left football to manage its own affairs. The Arsenal board, having sacked Graham, wanted to bring criminal charges against him. As Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal chairman, told me: "It was our money and we took counsel's advice. Counsel waved his arm in the direction of the window and said, 'The police have a lot on their plate'."

This is where the world has changed – to Redknapp's great disadvantage. The decision to charge him despite the fact that this was not an illegal payment but alleged tax evasion shows how the relationship between sports' bodies and the judicial authorities has altered.

The authorities are no longer confident that sports bodies can be trusted to carry out their own investigations. This has been reflected in recent months in the successful criminal prosecution of the three Pakistan cricketers for spot-fixing and the decision to charge John Terry for alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand.

Football needs to come to terms with this reality. It must be transparent and accountable. This involves the game opening up its books and re-examining its old methods of rewarding managers. A useful starting point would be a full disclosure of transfer payments between clubs with a detailed breakdown of who gets what in a transfer.

If the Redknapp case led to such reform, then it would have done much good. Unless football gives that signal and does so quickly, we cannot be convinced that the game is finally ready to move into the 21st century.

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Robin van Persie scores the third for Manchester United with a perfectly-guided header
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all