Hull City: Poor Judgement Leaves Tigers In Trouble

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2010

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - APRIL 11:  Paul Duffen, the Hull City chairman walks down the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Hull City at the Riverside Stadium on April 11, 2009 in Middlesbrough, England  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Hull City's ex-Chairman Paul Duffen has been one of the biggest influences on Hull City Football Club recent history, for better and worse.

After taking over the club with the Tigers perilously close to relegation from the Championship, he has seen the club go from strength to strength.

During his tenure, the East Yorkshire club have had their first ever appearance at Wembley Stadium, where they beat Bristol City one goal to nil. The club won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club's history. It was also the first time the historic old club had ever played in the top flight of English football in it's 106-year of existence.

However, after winning promotion, Duffen's grand plans for the Tigers started to unravel.

When the club were in the Championship, Duffen set out a three year plan to invest gradually and steadily so the club would be equipped to fight for promotion after three years. Considering the club had been in the Coca Cola League Two only four years before, it wasn't a bad idea. It would allow the team time to consolidate its position in the Championship after two seasons of survival.

His first appointment was to oversee Phil Brown as the club's manager at a time when the Tigers were perilously close to sinking out of the Championship with a whimper.

Brown didn't disappoint Duffen. His new boss promptly dragged the Tigers kicking and screaming from the brink of relegation, and seeing long time rivals, Leeds United relegated in the process.

After a slow start to his first full season in charge at the KC Stadium, Duffen broke the club's transfer record with the signing of Wigan's Caleb Folan as the club's first £1 million signing. He also brought in Jay Jay Okocha, the ex-Bolton and African Footballer of the Year, to the club. Okocha was a real coup for the club and it instilled belief that the club was going somewhere in the division, that was not another struggle at the wrong end of the table.

After less than a full year in charge, Duffen would see Hull City take the field at Wembley Stadium and win in the Championship final. In doing so, the club would win promotion two seasons ahead of schedule.

In the closed season, the club signed Marlon King on loan from Wigan Athletic, Peter Halmosi the Hungarian international from Plymouth Argyle, Anthony Gardner from Tottenham Hotspur, Kamil Zayette from Young Boys of Berne and the real coup of the Brazilian Geovanni on a free transfer from Manchester City.

The team hit the ground running and got some major scalps, beating Newcastle United at St James' Park, Arsenal at the Emirates (only the second time in Arsenal's history), Spurs at White Hart Lane and West Ham at Upton Park. The club also gave the likes of Manchester United a real scare at Old Trafford, scoring three past Sir Alex Ferguson's team, and were lucky not to have beaten Liverpool at Anfield after some very dubious decisions from the referee.

However, after the flying start, the Tigers saw the wheels started to come off just before Christmas. The other clubs in the Premiership worked out the Tiger's audacious plans and the club's lack of depth meant that formations couldn't be changed greatly to paper over the cracks.

Duffen and Brown sent back Marlon King who had been inspirational in the early part of the season,to his parent club Wigan because of the negative effect he was having on the club and the Daniel Cousin who had signed on the last day of the summer transfer window seemed to lose interest in anything but the biggest of Premier League fixtures.

From being one of the teams with the best attacks in the Premiership the teams goal scoring options dried up to the point that the team only scored 12 goals after January.

Duffen signed Jimmy Bullard for a club record fee of £5 million for the injury prone midfield play maker but within 38-minutes of his debut, he was injured yet again and wouldn't return until November of the next season.

With survival guarenteed with both Newcastle United and Middlesbrough losing on the last day of the season, the Tigers loss to Manchester United was meaningless but by a whisker the Tigers had achieved a miracle. Despite been every pundit's first choice for relegation in their first full season in the top flight, the Tigers had survived to fight another day.

With the new season came more wheeling and dealing from the Hull City Chairman. In came Paul McShane, who had had a good spell with the club the season previously, Kamel Ghilas the Algerian international was signed from Celta Vigo along with the American striker Jozy Altidore on loan.

More importantly, the club brought in some much needed Premierhsip experience in Stephen Hunt from Reading for £3.5million, and Seyi Olofinjana for £3million from Stoke City

Hull City's Championship goal scoring hero Fraizer Campbell was a major target from Manchester United and a fee of around £6 million was accepted but Campbell was away on England Under-21 at the European Nation's Cup, and he stalled to the point that he joined Sunderland.

Michael Owen was also a target after getting relegated with Newcastle, but when Manchester United came calling, the Tigers lost out again. Marc-Antoine Fortune was targeted but he chose to team up with his former manager at Celtic rather than signing with the Tigers.

However, the rumored signing Alvaro Negredo, for a massive £13m for the highly rated Real Madrid was plain crazy but from a P/R stand point it looked like the club were going places.

However, more worryingly out went Sam Ricketts to Bolton Wanderers and Michael Turner to Sunderland. The loss of Ricketts was not seen as a huge loss as he had had a good but not magnificent season, but the loss of highly rated Turner was seen as selling the club's crown jewels.

It had been speculated that Liverpool, Tottenham and other top Premier League clubs had put in substantial bids for the highly rated centre back, with the club saying that he was only for sale for no less than £12 million.

Turner left the club for an undisclosed sum at the tale end of the transfer window, not to one of the division's big clubs but to Sunderland, a club that had been playing the Tigers only three years before in the Championship.

Along with the sale of Turner, Duffen said on the radio in the early part of the season in defence of his under pressurre manager and close friend, that he was better than Rafa Benitez. But what gaulled the Hull City fans most was the insulting remarks he made about the club's fans.

With the season only two months in, and the Tigers sitting in the last of the relegation places, Pual Duffen resigned as the club's executive chairman.

The club's owner Russell Bartlett had contacted Hull City's previous owner Adam Pearson to try to get him to take over the day to day running of the club that he had saved from extinction at the start for the millenia.

It was with the reappearance of Pearson that some of Duffen's financial dealings started to immerge. The undisclosed fee for Turner was not in the region of £12m but closer to £4m, and with the sell on clauses that were in his previous contracts that meant the club actually only made £2.8m for a player that had been valued so much higher.

One of the reasons that Duffen had been asked to stand down was because the club's taxes had been delayed for over a year and when filed the club's auditors claimed that if the club were to be relegated, they would need to find approximately £23m to survive. The club had also spent almost £5m on agent fees since arriving in the Premier League. 

The sums were shocking for all the club's fans, not least because when Pearson had sold the club he had left the Tigers in a sound and healthy state. The new chairman has been trying to off load players to reduce the clubs operating costs and cut the players wage bill by £9/10m.

The most staggering thing for the club is the legal action it is taking against its former chairman. The club said in a statement,

"The company believes that Mr Duffen has acted in breach of his employment contracts and fiduciary duties as a director, through the use of company monies for his own personal expenditure and other wrongdoings.

"The company also believes that he has acted in breach of his employment contracts and fiduciary duties as a director, through the payment of certain monies by third party football agents to Mr Duffen's services company, in return for which Mr Duffen procured that Hull City contract with the agents for business.

"Consequently, on 15 January last, the company successfully sought and obtained a High Court order freezing Mr Duffen's assets.

Duffen had claimed that he had initiated legal action against Hull City Football Club, to recover almost £1m, and that he was fully expecting the club to to hit back.

The club also stated that, contrary to a tabloid newspaper article, Duffen has not issued any legal proceedings against the company and that the club did not have any basis whatsoever for doing so.

It has been speculated by fans that if the club is involved in any "bung" allegations for wrong doing on the count of agent fees, then by taking action themselves, to right the situation and place the blame squarely on the ex-chairman's shoulders, the club will not be sanctioned by the Premier League and the F.A. for breach of their rules.

Pearson has also said the the club's wage bill would not be substantially reduced if the club were to be relegated. It has become standard that if a club is relegated, player's wages are reduced to alleviate the impact of relegation on the club.

However, in a recent interview with the local Hull media, Pearson said,

"Our wage bill will reduce if we go down but it wouldn't solve the problem, there are about six or seven who have clauses put in place by the club, but they are not particularly big clauses.

However, the situation ends for the Tigers, or when. The sorry affair has put an awful taste in the mouth for thousands of loyal fans who should be celebrating a halcyon time in their club's history, not worrying where the club's next pound is coming from.


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