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Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007
Stigma from arrest will linger for Redknapp in near future
LONDON — The problem with being arrested for anything is that the person is immediately seen as guilty by association by many.
Even if no charges are subsequently made or, if they are, and the person is found not guilty the (no smoke without fire) theory can leave a stigma attached to someone who has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
It was easy to sympathize with Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp who was "bitterly disappointed" — to say the least — at the way police handled an inquiry into alleged corruption in football.
Redknapp's home was raided at 6 p.m. on Thursday with press photographers present. He claimed the allegations had "nothing whatsoever to do with me." The man known simply as "A" (Harry was one of five men arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting. Also arrested were former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric, Peter Storrie, the Portsmouth chief executive, high-profile agent Willie McKay and Amdy Faye, the former Portsmouth player.
Detectives from the economic crime unit of the City of London Police are investigating allegations of corruption within football and its impact on owners and shareholders.
While not suggesting any of the above have done anything illegal it would be naive to believe football, like so many businesses, does not have a backhander culture. One manager said of a colleague: "He doesn't so much like a drink but wants the entire brewery."
An agent can make £750,000 from a regular Premier League transfer with his fee as much as £3 million for a big-name player. Sometimes agents can be generous with their appreciation to the manager of the buying club.
Redknapp is one of the most media friendly and popular of managers. A master wheeler-and-dealer, Redknapp has a reputation for bringing unknown players, particularly African, to English football and turning them into Premier League stars.
McKay has certainly become very rich out of football. The Scot was the man behind the incredible saga of Jean-Alain Boumsong, who joined Rangers on a free transfer from Auxerre in 2004 and six months later signed for Newcastle in an £8 million deal. Many Newcastle fans believe the Frenchman is among the worst defenders ever to have played for the club.
Senegalese international Faye, currently on loan to Rangers from Charlton, moved from Portsmouth to Newcastle two years ago for £2 million. The transfer is part of a City of London Police inquiry. Faye's move from Auxerre to Portsmouth and his subsequent transfer to Newcastle were both set up by McKay.
Redknapp said his wife was "petrified" when the police arrived and was at a loss to explain why he had been treated in this manner when the inquiry appeared to focus on payments made by an agent to a player.
"What an agent does with his player has nothing to do with me," said Redknapp. "I still feel I was only called in because I have a high profile. I add a bit of a profile to the investigation." He said his family were "deeply heartbroken by the situation" and asked: "Why has it been brought into the public domain when I wasn't involved in any part of it?"
Paul Martin, the solicitor representing Redknapp and Storrie, said: "The inquiries do not relate to either of those individuals. They relate to entirely different individuals."
Earlier this year Tottenham's Pascal Chimbonda, whose move from Wigan was negotiated by McKay, was also arrested on similar conspiracy to defraud and false accounting matters.
It will be months before the Crown Prosecution Service decides whether anyone should be charged but Redknapp can say goodbye to any chance he may have had of succeeding Steve McClaren.
The Premier League had recruited Lord Stevens to conduct an inquiry and deals involving Boumsong and Faye were among those which remained uncleared.
In the meantime Redknapp, like everyone innocent until proven guilty, prepared his team for Saturday's home game against Everton to a backdrop of bungs rumors. Portsmouth is a creditable seventh in the Premier League, but it remains to be seen whether there is a knock-on effect from the off-field happenings.
THE MOST alarming statistic of the season so far is that six Premier
League clubs — almost a third — have changed managers. Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Sammy Lee (Bolton), Martin Jol (Spurs), Chris Hutchings (Wigan), Billy Davies (Derby) and Steve Bruce (Birmingham) have departed for one reason or another.
Lee and Hutchings were appointed only last summer. Their respective chairmen gave them just a couple of months before pulling the trigger.
Top-six finishes in the last two years did not stop Spurs replacing Jol with Juande Ramos after the London club's poor early results.
When Davies took over at Derby they were 20th in the Championship yet he led them to promotion to the Premiership in his first season. Derby were always going to struggle among English football's elite and their results are more a reflection on the gap between the top two divisions than Davies' managerial ability.
The compensation bill in the Premier League will reach an all-time high at this rate.
Christopher Davies was a longtime soccer correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.