Duxbury on Tevez: 'we did absolutely nothing wrong'

  • by Staff Writer
  • Tuesday, 26th August 2014

Five years ago KUMB.com sat down with Scott Duxbury for an exclusive interview during which West Ham United's then-CEO revealed the full story behind the Carlos Tevez case.

Subsequently blamed by many for the events that led to West Ham cutting their losses and agreeing to a ?20million+ out-of-court settlement with Sheffield United in September 2008 following Lord Griffiths' bizarre assertion that "West Ham would have secured at least three fewer points ... if Carlos Tevez had not been playing for the club", Duxbury gave his side of the story in a no-holds-barred interview - some of which missed the cut when the original article was published.

On the day that West Ham United meet Sheffield United for the first time since the acrimonious 'Tevez Affair' split the world of football, we reveal the story behind the clandestine talks that led to the out-of-court settlement figure of circa ?20million - and the lengths Duxbury went to in order to keep Carlos Tevez at the club for the final three games of the 2006/07 season.

Following months of legal wrangling and numerous hearings, all of which had gone in West Ham's favour, a tribunal led by Lord Griffiths decided that the Hammers should pay massive compensation to the Blades following their relegation from the Premiership at the end of the 2006/07 season. The Yorkshire club, who had led West Ham by 10 points just two months earlier had asked for damages of between ?30m-?45m to be considered.

Devastated by the incomprehensible verdict, Duxbury was keen to avoid returning to court as he knew that to do so could potentially leave West Ham facing administration. It was, he believed, a genuine possibility following the previous year's worldwide banking collapse that left the club saddled with massive debts and him effectively in charge by default, after the hasty departure of Eggert Magnusson and Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.

Duxbury persuaded Sheffield United's Kevin McCabe to attend a meeting in Belgium, where the Blades chairman held business interests. And according to the man introduced to West Ham by former chairman Terry Brown, proceedings got off to a dreadful start. "We did it all in Brussels," he told KUMB. "But the first meeting went really badly. Myself and Nick went to this bar in Bruges because we thought that's it, we're screwed."

However a second meeting proved to be far more productive after the duo representing West Ham decided that a more direct approach was necessary - which ultimately proved successful. "We played hard-ball, and it was fantastic," said Duxbury. "We said right, fine. Either you're going to put us into administration or we will put the club into administration and you won't get a penny. It was real brinkmanship. He [McCabe] wanted the money up front and that would have made a difference to Sheffield. We staged it over five years."

It was only last year that the final tranche of some ?5million was paid to the Blades, who have essentially squandered the huge sum of money they managed to extort from West Ham. Brian Robson and Kevin Blackwell are held culpable by many Blades followers for wasting sizeable warchests during the club's Championship years (2007-11), since when they have fallen further down the league ladder.

Even though the settlement figure nearly crippled West Ham and, combined with other factors, left the club uncompetitive in the transfer market for several years, Duxbury believed that the arrangement represented a good deal for the club - who he maintained could have faced a bill twice the size had the two parties not reached an agreement.

"It's a stupid amount of money but when you put it over five years it doesn't hurt us," he insisted. "It's less than what we paid for Freddie Ljungberg. But it became clear to me we simply couldn't risk an absurd decision by Lord Griffiths that says the full ?40million that Sheffield United are claiming is payable, and it's payable within seven days - which would be the award."

Duxbury, who departed West Ham shortly after the arrival of current owners David Sullivan and David Gold was at the very centre of the entire Tevez affair from beginning to end. The club's Legal Secretary at the time Tevez and fellow Argentine Javier Mascherano joined West Ham, he was later accused of misleading Tevez's representatives in order to keep the striker at the club until the end of the 2006/07 season.

Famously referred to as 'oral cuddles', it was claimed that Duxbury lied to Kia Joorbachian's lawyer Graham Shear regarding the player's contractual status. Whilst the Premier League insisted that a new contract be drawn up in order to allow Tevez to play the final games of the 2006/07 season following an enquiry, Duxbury was said to have told Shear that the existing deal remained in place - albeit now as a verbal agreement only.

They are charges that Duxbury vehemently denied.

"It was just a loan agreement, effectively," he began. "We had to serve notice to Kia and Tevez, the Premier League insisted. Tevez was in a hotel in Wigan when we had to serve this notice to him terminating the agreement. So Tevez was kicking off, wondering what's going on.

"I calmed him down, saying we'd discuss it next week. Kia was saying 'right, we need to talk because Tevez ain't playing again, you've terminated the agreement and I'm going to sue you for tens of millions of pounds'. Good. Nice preparation for the next couple of games...

"So we met with Kia in Eggert's office [following the Wigan game]. Eggert didn't want to meet him originally, he was saying 'Kia's dangerous, I don't want him here'. I said if we don't meet, he isn't going to play. Kia's not bluffing, Tevez just won't play.

"At that point, Tevez was in an oxygen tent with an ankle injury and it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to say 'I'm not fit'. But we met with Kia in his office and I dragged Eggert there.

"I said 'look, you're going to be absolutely destroyed in the world media if Tevez doesn't play because you're seen as this evil third party. A judgment goes against you and then Tevez doesn't play? It's absolutely in your interest that Tevez plays. If he wants to go in the summer he can, but he must play in these three games. It's absolutely in his interest.'

"At the same time, Lucas Neill was in the oxygen tent with Tevez so I had Lucas getting into his head saying 'come on, you must play. It's ridiculous, if you've got your dream move to Man Utd or whoever, you've got to play'.

"So the purpose of those meetings was, as I would do with any player or agent that's not happy, to convince him to play and to convince his agent to sort it out in the summer.

"The Premier League were happy with that. But Griffiths, who doesn't understand football believes that the fact we even met Kia, the fact that we convinced Tevez to stay was in some way a breach of the rules - which is absolute nonsense."

Always a warm welcome: Tevez in 2010 as a Manchester City substitute

It is often forgotten that Carlos Tevez failed to score a single goal in his first 19 appearances for West Ham. However in his final three matches - games in which West Ham beat Wigan, Bolton and Manchester United to miraculously avoid relegation - he scored three times, giving him a total of seven for the season.

And it was the Argentine's (considerable) influence in those trio of games alone which led Lord Griffiths to rule in favour of Sheffield United, leaving West Ham with the prospect of paying a world-record compensation sum.

That inexplicable ruling followed the world record ?5million fine West Ham had already been hit with by the Premier League as a result of irregularities regarding Tevez's original contract which, with agent's fees, wages and other associated costs considered, meant the player ended up costing the Hammers around ?35million - all for just 29 matches.

Yet on reflection, Duxbury - now CEO at Championship club Watford - maintained that he was content with the manner in which he handled the affair immediately following the Premier League's insistence that Tevez's contract be ripped up.

"As an executive of a football club it's exactly what you've got to do," he argued. "You've just terminated their contract, you've just p*ssed them off royally, you've got to do what you can to convince the player to play. If you want to go in the summer - no problem. But it's entirely in your interest to play now. And the Premier League agreed with this.

"If I had refused to meet Kia, Tevez wouldn't have played and that would have been negligent. I had to meet Kia and Tevez and say 'look, if you want to go somewhere else, that is not a problem'. I had the same conversation with Nigel Reo-Coker in January when he wanted to go.

"It would've been easier for me for, self preservation, not to have met them and just said 'I'm not getting involved' and Tevez wouldn't have played," he continued. "But I did, and we did absolutely nothing wrong.

"We met, we got him to play and in the summer it was a huge battle, a massive battle. We could not have done anything more consistent with terminating the side agreement because we had legal battles, we were slagged off in the press and after months of turmoil we eventually reached an agreement where Tevez could go.

"If we were acting consistently with the side agreement he would have just gone on 1 July. Griffiths just totally missed it. Quite frankly I think it was the finest negotiation I've ever done. I'm proud of that, I've done nothing wrong - and I got Tevez to play."

* West Ham United face Sheffield United in the Capital One Cup second round at the Boleyn Ground tonight. Tickets are priced from just ?10 for adults and are available from whufc.com.

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