Monday, 8 February 2010

Mutual consent

Common sense seems to be behind the apparent mutual agreement between Hull City and ex-chairman Paul Duffen to settle their legal differences out of court.

Duffen is addicted to media exposure and would have loved his day in court. Ultimately the cards were dealt by the Tigers in order to make plain their disapproval of Duffen's conduct as chairman - he has been accused of taking money from agents in return for club dealings, and also transferring club money to his other business ventures - but even though the case was strong, it could have been more of a pyrrhic victory had it continued.

A club dragging its own name through the British legal system, even with good cause and confidence of success, does not look good for the club itself nor for the sport it represents. Duffen's narcissism when in charge would have re-emerged and, as a skilled and shameless performer in public, he would have revelled in the occasion when called to give evidence. For all the club's public disassociation with Duffen's tenure as chairman (difficult when it involved promotion to the Premier League and a subsequently rather memorable survival therein), it still would have been harmful to its standing had it allowed its evidence of wrongdoing to be aired and debated in a public courtroom.

This way, Duffen doesn't get his day in court and the Tigers can feel vindicated in taking action against him. That an out-of-court settlement now seems likely allows Duffen to look culpable and the club to look generous and self-protective. Duffen doesn't win and his reputation stays tarnished, but he keeps the gory details to himself. It's a perfectly acceptable outcome for the club and the best that Duffen could have wished for.

Of course, there has still been no official confirmation from either the club or its former chairman, presumably until the terms of the settlement are finally agreed. One assumes discussions and negotiations are ongoing.

An interesting aside from this whole sorry business is the revelation that while Duffen publicly fell on his sword in October with faux-gallantry over his responsibility for poor form on the pitch (and then separately told every available media outlet so, rather than issuing a brief statement and disappearing to his yacht), he had actually been sacked by Russell Bartlett earlier the same week. It seems that even his one act of genuine selflessness was a sham.