One area of negotiating research revolves around the game of “chicken”. This involves hypothecating what would happen if one car driver hurtles towards another at great speed down a single track. The first one to swerve to avoid destruction is “the loser”. Both parties in fact have an incentive to swerve to avoid the risk of mutual destruction if they both continue. However, if I swerve and you don’t I also run the risk of losing face and losing the game. This outcome is less damaging than the mutual smash which happens if neither of us blinks, but sometimes participants choose to carry on into a smash anyway. This is because swerving risks making us look like a bit of a sucker if the other person doesn’t swerve.

Does the outcome of the Rednapp/Levy discussions illustrate an extreme example of the game of “chicken”? Let’s consider the positions:

– Harry adopts the position that he will not stay unless he is offered at least two years
– Levy digs his heels in over a one year contract.

Each knows that if they don’t back down then there is a risk that the relationship ends – which is potentially bad for both of them and the club. Yet they choose to keep on their adopted path, refusing to blink in case the other side blinks first.

The result? A mutual smash. Rednapp leaves, but where does he go? There is no other top 6 club option available to him in the UK. Will he really be happy coaching in the Middle East? Possibly not, however much he is paid. Meanwhile Levy has to replace a popular manager who has been one of the most successful in Spurs’ history. This is disruptive, risky, costly and may yet result in some of Spurs’ best players like Modric and Bale leaving…

A collaborative solution would have avoided all of this, but would have required both parties blinking. Rednapp and Levy may be “duckers and divers”, but evidently neither of them is a “swerver”…