After the highs of Newcastle United promotion comes the low of Lee Charnley being arrested and the club raided in connection with alleged tax fraud and transfer irregularities.
That is Newcastle United being Newcastle United, just when we thought we could sit back and watch how the power struggle behind the scenes play out.
Would Rafa finally get the promised ‘total control over football matters’? Would Graham Carr, ostensibly the chief scout, finally be pushed aside?
Yet here we are, asking the unthinkable: Will they do a Swindon Town and hold us back?
I don’t believe so. A far ranging investigation has been launched involving 40 odd players and a dozen clubs with the West Ham and Newcastle United raids, in all probability, being the opening shots of a wide ranging investigation which could take months if not a year or two, according to people in the know.
The sanctions, if any, could be brought down upon the club next season or season after, a probable points deduction, though according to the rules, major points deductions are issued more for insolvency issues than fraud.
That would of course be under the purview of footballing authorities, which would depend on the completion of prosecution.
I could be wrong, of course, and the HMRC could still have a few big smoking guns that they bring out early.
Parallels are being drawn with the 2006 Juventus scandal, which mostly involved rigging matches, not tax avoidance. Swindon Town in 1990 and Boston United in 2002 are closer examples with tax fraud being cited.
The thing that makes it all the more galling is that, Newcastle United never even got the best deals for all its penny pinching and any alleged sharp practices. With the old board of Marseille reportedly being drawn into the investigation, the transfer of Florian Thauvin is being called into question.
Thauvin getting sold back at a loss and playing (or not playing…) a role in one of the most disappointing campaigns in recent memory.
Graham Carr, for all his alleged savant like feel for the French/continental market, managed to somehow miss out on N’Golo Kante (£5.6 mil), Anthony Knockaert (£2mil from Standard Liege), Riyad Mahrez (£400,000), Nampalys Mendy (£13 mil) while giving us gems like Emmanuel Riviere, Romain Amalfitano, Henri Saivet, Remy Cabella, Florian Thauvin, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Luuk de Jong, Siem de Jong and Sylvain Marveaux.
Not to forget that his admiration for the FC Twente team of Steve McClaren played a part in his getting the job.
The worst case scenario:
Lee Charnley, a director of more than 30 companies linked with Newcastle United, is found guilty of tax fraud with Newcastle United taking vicarious responsibility. Newcatsle United are hit with a points deduction as well as a transfer embargo, shredding Rafa’s rebuilding plan. In any case, Mike Ashley has brought in a Keith Bishop nominated patsy as the Managing director.
The old transfer blueprint has been restored. Unknown players have been signed up from France and the low countries and touted as the next Cabaye while they still refuse to pay a couple of million of pounds more for the next Kurt Zouma/ Raphael Varane. Graham Carr continues in his role…. Rafa Benitez takes stock of his options and unsurprisingly leaves.
The appointment of a washed up Yes Man, whose most recent record was relegation/mid table in the Championship follows. Newcastle are deducted 12 points for irregularities. They are stuck at mid table with the best players sold off to make profits. They slide towards the relegation zone come March 2018 and stay there for the rest of the season. Neil Warnock walks in as the saviour. Cue the music.
The best case scenario:
Lee Charnley, a director of more than 30 companies linked with Newcastle United, is found guilty of tax fraud with Newcastle United taking vicarious responsibility. Rafa Benitez becomes the face of the club with Mike Ashley in deep trouble with the blowback from tax fraud hitting him hard. All the ‘cost saving’ tactics put him under greater scrutiny. Graham Carr is sidelined from all transfer activity.
A club insider is promoted to MD, essentially a messenger boy between the manager and the owner. Ashley capitulates and gives Rafa a transfer chest. Newcastle are hit with a 12 point deduction with no caveats on future transfers. Rafa builds up the spine of the team and promotes youngsters. He concentrates on the Premier league and tries to be 12 points ahead of the 18th placed team. 52 points is the target.
The wide ranging investigations draw in other top to mid-table clubs (12 was the number quoted) so with a range of point deductions on various teams, Newcastle coast to safety. The long touted Qatari consortium finally swoops in and Mike Ashley is all too happy to sell up. Cue the music.
Seriously though, if the club is IN the premier league under Rafa and regardless of points deducted or transfer bans, I still am optimistic that we will be able to stave off relegation. If they do a Swindon Town on us, we can look forward to maybe half a decade of mid-table Championship mediocrity.
Aditya Gautum (One of the club’s passionate Newcastle fans following the team from India)
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