Cleared by jury, Redknapp in line for England job

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp’s was cleared of tax evasion on

Wednesday, paving the way for the charismatic Englishman to cap a

30-year coaching career by becoming Fabio Capello’s successor with

the England national team.

Capello unexpectedly quit as England’s manager only hours after

Redknapp was cleared of concealing $295,000 of transfer bonuses in

a Monaco bank account while in charge of Portsmouth.

”Now that Harry has been proved innocent it makes a clear path

should the FA wish … to offer him the England manager’s job,”

former England coach Graham Taylor said.

The 64-year-old Redknapp is enjoying his most successful period

in management and was the favorite to take charge of England after

this year’s European Championship – even before Capello’s

resignation following a dispute about John Terry being fired as

captain.

Despite facing a trial, Redknapp has kept Tottenham in

contention for its first English league title since 1961, with the

team currently third in the Premier League.

In a case that stemmed from an 8 million pound ($13 million)

police inquiry into soccer corruption, Redknapp and former

Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric were cleared on two counts of

cheating the public purse.

”It really has been a nightmare,” said Redknapp, who was first

arrested in 2007. ”It’s been five years and this is a case that

should never have come to court because it’s unbelievable,

really.

”It was horrendous, you know, but … the jury were absolutely

unanimous that there was no case to answer. I’m pleased now we can

go home and get on with our lives.”

The former West Ham player was brought to Tottenham from

Portsmouth in 2008 despite the allegations hanging over him.

”Everyone at the club is delighted for Harry and his family,”

Tottenham said in a statement. ”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.”

Redknapp managed Portsmouth from 2002-04 and returned in 2005

after a brief spell at Southampton, winning the FA Cup before

moving to Tottenham in 2008.

The prosecution claimed that Mandaric paid $145,000 into

Redknapp’s Monaco bank account in 2002 – a bonus prompted by Peter

Crouch’s sale from Portsmouth to Aston Villa – and another $150,000

two years later.

But jurors accepted Redknapp and Mandaric’s evidence that the

Rosie 47 bank account, named after the manager’s dog and his birth

year, had nothing to do with soccer matters. The 73-year-old

Mandaric claimed he was providing tax-free loans for investing.

Britain’s tax authority said it had ”no regrets” about taking

the case to trial, but experts questioned why the costly

high-profile prosecution was pursued.

”The Premier League will contribute over 1 billion pounds ($1.6

billion) to the exchequer (in taxes this season) for the first

time,” said Pete Hackleton, a sports expert at accountancy firm

Saffery Champness. ”Yet (the tax authority) appear to give

disproportionate focus to the tax affairs of football clubs and

those involved in the industry, often spending significant time and

resource conducting inquiries and taking high-profile cases.”

At another earlier trial involving Portsmouth, which could only

be reported for the first time on Wednesday, Mandaric and former

club chief executive Peter Storrie were also cleared of evading

600,000 pounds in taxes relating to a signing-on fee for defender

Amdy Faye and a termination payment to forward Eyal Berkovic.

Mandaric is now chairman of third-tier club Sheffield Wednesday

following a spell in control of Leicester after selling Portsmouth

in 2007. The Serbian claims to have ”saved three much-loved

football clubs which were on the brink of extinction.”

Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarrisUK