Saturday, 28 April 2007

Inquest Aftermath

The over-worked media factory has been running red-hot overnight, belching out great noxious plumes of West Ham related stories. The Times leads with the banner headline: 'West Ham Deceived Premier League To Sign Argentinians'. The article states West Ham United were so desperate to sign Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano that they lied to the FA Premier League to cover up contracts agreed with the Argentina players. The panel said that Paul Aldridge, the former West Ham managing director, had lied to Richard Scudamore when the Premier League chief executive had queried how they had managed to secure the players so cheaply and whether there were any documents that he had not seen. Aldridge said “no”. This was not true because there was an agreement between West Ham and Kia Joorabchian, the businessman who owned the rights of the Argentina players. Messrs Brown, Aldridge and Scott Duxbury [then legal director] were anxious to complete the registration of these players by the deadline,” the panel said. “They knew that the only means by which they could acquire them would be by entering into third-party contracts. They were aware that the Premier League, in all probability, would not approve of such contracts. They determined to keep their existence from the Premier League. The chief executive [Aldridge], told Scudamore a direct lie, that there was no documentation in respect of the players that had not been seen,” the panel said.

Duxbury, now the deputy chief executive, was found to have misled the Premier League. He had telephoned the organisation a few days before the transfers took place to ask if there could be a break clause in the contracts of the players, who were owned by offshore companies. He was told no and advised as to the rules. Duxbury believed that he did not have to disclose the agreement with Joorabchian and advised Aldridge to say that all information needed to register the players had been provided. When it became apparent that the players were to sign, the Premier League asked Duxbury if there was a third-party agreement in place. They claim that he said “no”. He denies giving an answer. “Jim Sturman [West Ham QC] submits that all Duxbury is guilty of is an error in judgment. We do not for one moment accept those propositions,” the panel said.

Eggert Magnússon’s eyes will water as he ponders the size of the cheque that will soon be added to the FA Premier League’s charity fund. But, for once, things could have been worse. In the opinion of Kevin Eason, the verdict given yesterday should be viewed as a godsend by the Irons chairman. By not suffering a points deduction, West Ham retain a chance, however slender, of remaining in a league that will be drowning in money next season. You can read about the financial implications of the decision here and also in a related article about the '£40 million Premiership lifeline'.

According to Matt Scott in The Guardian, West Ham are looking to sue the old regime over the fine. At an internal meeting last night the club were exploring their legal options with a view to going after the club's former chairman Terry Brown, who picked up more than £30m for the sale of his 36.6% equity in the club. Elsewhere there have been rumblings about the incongruous nature of the punishment in relation to the severity of the crime. There is an emotive two-page article by David Bond in the Telegraph that claims 'No Justice If Tevez Keeps West Ham Up'. The piece ponders that if it is Tevez who scores the goals, starting at Wigan this afternoon, which keep the club up, then it would be rough justice for West Ham's rivals who, after reading yesterday's 26-page report by Premier League disciplinary commission chairman Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, must wonder what you have to do to get docked points.

One man who will have no such concerns is Carlos Tevez himself. In an exclusive in The Sun, the Argentine striker insists his conscience is clear over the legal furore. "I don’t feel guilty because I have always acted in good faith," claims Tevez. "The fans know that and that is why they love me. Ever since I have been at West Ham I have only ever worried about playing as well as I can and giving my best to the team. It is a complicated situation but I am sure these problems and the team’s bad position in the table were not caused my myself and Javier Mascherano. Right now I just want to put my mind to the match against Wigan." Also in the paper is a rant by Harry Redknapp, who claims to be 'staggered by the Argie blunder'. It's a grimly amusing read when you remember the Manny Omoyinmi fiasco and Harry claims to be hugely relieved that the fans have not been punished for an administrative cock-up.

In the Mirror there is a piece that poses the question: Can you think of a topflight side that has had a worse season? It would be difficult. What follows is a sobering account of the nightmare journey from '90 seconds from FA Cup glory to 90 minutes to save season'. In a similar vein, the Paul Hayward column in the Daily Mail begins: "Boy, have I got a book for you. It’s a thriller, a weepy, a comedy, a confessional, a whodunnit and a morality tale with a beginning, a muddle and a spectacular end." The beauty of this project, our author explains, is that the action is compressed into a perfect 12-month frame, starting with a road-trip to Cardiff and finishing maybe with a journey down the plughole.

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