Saturday, June 16, 2007

Crossing Jordan

Thanks to Wyn Grant for providing a link to the full account of Mr Justice Tugendhat in the case of Crystal Palace FC (2000) Ltd and Iain Dowie.

For those with a spare hour it is well worth reading in full, because it provides rare and outstanding insights into the way football is actually conducted in this country. It also makes me thankful that I made that last-minute decision to study economics instead of law at university.

The clandestine phone calls, the secret meetings, the use of intermediaries who add little value, and the wanton way that money is spent seemingly without any sense of 'value', probably shouldn't come as a surprise to those of a cynical bent.

"Mr Jordan did provide discretionary benefits, and one which figured prominently in the dispute that has arisen is the provision of the cost of the air tickets for Mr Dowie to fly home to see his family on Saturday nights."

Why for example would a football manager earning £750,000 require additional 'discretionary' help paying for domestic air travel? If only such assistance were available to those fans paying £3 for programmes, and for overpriced tat in the club shop.

However throughout the lengthy verdict, I found myself generally sympathetic to Jordan's case, and for those Charlton fans who disagree, I would simply suggest that they substitute 'Jordan' for 'Murray', and 'Dowie' for 'Curbishley' throughout, and then question how we might have reacted had the shoe been on the other foot.

I suspect most of us recoil from Jordan's flash style and unfortunate tanning habit (and the fact that Palace are local rivals), rather than from his football values. But surely the relationship between Dowie and Jordan had not broken down to such an extent that a reasonable out-of-court settlement could not have been reached?

There were plenty of references throughout the verdict which surprised me but one really stood out (referring to the presentation given by Dowie during his interview):

"The fact that Mr Dowie arrived for interview with a laptop containing such a presentation made an impression on Mr Murray and others at Charlton."

Perhaps Murray has been in football too long, but should it really be 'impressive' that someone arrives for £1m+ pa job interview having done some prior preparation? I was half expecting to learn that the fact that Dowie wore a tie and arrived on time wowed the interviewers. Anyhow, if only we could all be privy to the 'Advancing the Addicks' presentation; the slide on transfer policy might have made for some interesting reading.

Interestingly, the said presentation was a rehash of one Dowie had previously used at a Derby County job interview, namely 'Reinvigorating the Rams.' It led me to an image of Dowie working feverishly into the early hours, eagerly weighing up whether the Rams should be 'reinvgorated', 'rejuvenated' or 'rebuilt.' And one wonders too what he had in mind for the Sky Blues of Coventry City......'stability' would be my best guess given when he joined them.

Charlton come out of the episode neither well nor badly. The compensation clause which is at the centre of the case was only ever an indirect consequence to them, even to the extent that they presumably would have been obliged to pay it had it not been torn up.

My only gripe perhaps concerns the speed with which they offered the job to Dowie, after Davies had procrastinated. It smacked a little of desperation, and it is not unreasonable to wonder whether Murray's personal loathing of Jordan might have played a small part. Then again, as the judge implied the club was not exactly inundated with serious offers, at least from those with the requisite qualifications (my application presumably failed on this technicality):

"All but twelve of the hundred or so applicants lacked the required experience."

The question left unanswered (in the verdict at least) is why Billy Davies chose to turn down the formal offer he was given. It appears likely that had he not done so, Dowie would have ended up at Derby, he'd have avoided an enormous legal bill, and we'd have likely stayed in the Premiership. If only the 'wee Scot' had known the potential 'ramifications' of his decision (no pun intended).


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