The Sweeper: On Harry Redknapp and Quantum Mechanics

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Dara O’Briain‘s column in the Guardian today destroys Sir Alex Ferguson’s inane “what-could-have-been” bluster, his complaint that Rafael’s second yellow card in the Champions League second leg quarterfinal against Bayern Munich absolutely cost United a chance to go through:

The point is, Ferguson, like the rest of us, needs to have a moment to point to, a moment where his favourite parallel universe, the one where he wins the Champions League, disappeared down the track without him.

And if quantum physics is right, that universe really exists. But then again, so does the universe where Lionel Messi lies on the turf a broken man, as I, yet again, clear the ball off his toe and scamper down the field.

It seems former Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp also has his own unique view of how the financial decisions or “causes,” if you want to get all classical physics about it, taken during his tenure at Pompey led to the “effect” of a universe in which Pompey is going into administration and losing their own century-old ground on the eve of an FA Cup semifinal.  None of those causes apparently involve him:

“The problem was that the owner when I was there, Sacha Gaydamak, suddenly lost interest and stopped putting money in,” Redknapp said. “They have not funded the club [since he left]. It only holds 19,000 people, there is no [corporate] hospitality. That’s the trouble. And who knows where the money has gone? Who owns the land around the stadium? I wouldn’t know.”

Ian over at the maddeningly marvelous twohundredpercent isn’t quite ready to let Redknapp completely off the hook in the wake of the financially damaged clubs under his previous purview:

There is a clear line in the sand to draw between managers that frequently turn up as fire fighters at clubs that are already in desperate financial straits and the circumstances of Harry Redknapp’s career. It remains a stark fact that every club that Harry Redknapp has been involved with as a manager (Bournemouth, West Ham United, Portsmouth and Southampton) has suffered desperate hardship after his departure. This may merely come down to being a matter of Redknapp being persuasive when it comes to persuading chairmen to make money that a club has available. It may be just a coincidence (after all, Redknapp’s departure from Bournemouth in 1992 and West Ham in 2001 can hardly be blamed upon their current circumstances). The whispering, however, continues.

Still, Redknapp has a point.  As any quantum physicist will tell you, there is no straight line between cause and effect from which you can work backwards and parse out the innocent from the guilty.  Hence SAF can’t tell you with any certainty that Rafael’s sending off prevented Manchester United from going through to the semifinals in all possible worlds.

But as chaotic as football finances can seem in the English game, it is far more predictable than the product it sells on the pitch.  Clubs spending upwards of 70% of turnover on player wages will predictably go into debt.  Clubs reliant on one investor to pay all the bills at the end of the year will be predictably less stable than a club that spends money generated from turnover alone.  Enormous wage taxes unpaid to the HMRC because of the football creditors’ rule, under which clubs must be paid transfer fees before any other creditors, predictably lead to winding up orders.  If we’re still using the physics metaphor, we are not talking about Schroedinger’s Cat here; this is something a little more akin to gravity.

Redknapp may not be guilty for driving Pompey into the ground, but neither is he blameless.  Rather, his pressure on board members to spend sums on players on they might not otherwise be able to reasonably afford with promises of glory (and therefore money, as football’s money men seem to assume more on faith than reason) is but one symptom of the disease currently crippling English football at all levels, especially the most vulnerable.  Redknapp’s talent at arm-twisting greedy board members is not a crime, but rather one more rung on a one-way ladder.

Quick Hits:

  • Get your pre-World Cup tension on. The same day the prospect of unsold tickets for the tournament in South Africa is called a “tragedy” by Fifa secretary-general, Jérôme Valcke, a group linked to Al-Qaeda (a conclusion we hope has been drawn by someone with actual knowledge of international terrorist organizations and not some sensationalist reporter on a web browser, fingers crossed!) has threatened to bomb the England v. USA opener.
  • Vanessa Perroncel‘s unsexy testimonial to the Guardian says way more about the extraordinarily aggressive tabloid journalism in England than it says about John Terry.
  • Kenn Tomasch reminisces about a time when Major Indoor Soccer League was considered worthy enough for a ten minute television news segment.
  • The Guardian gets some soccer bloggers on a couch together to shoot the shit on government regulation of football.

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