Friday, 27 April 2007

The Inquest Concludes

West Ham United are likely to be found guilty and fined when an FA Premier League inquiry announces its verdict today on charges that they acted improperly and withheld vital documentation in the transfers of Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano. Gary Jacobs in The Times says the club vigorously defended charges during a hearing in London that lasted just a few hours yesterday and are now likely to escape a points deduction. The Daily Mail are in agreement and predict West Ham will be 'let off the hook' with a substantial fine when the independent Premier League commission reconvenes. The article suggests that the commission members are likely to consider a points deduction too harsh, but also the expected punishment is sure to cause outrage at other clubs, who would regard it as too lenient. Paul Jewell, boss of the relegation-threatened Wigan side who meet the Hammers on Saturday, said: "Whoever is doing the inquiry will be desperate for us to beat West Ham. It should have been dealt with a long time ago to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. That would have given West Ham an opportunity to deal with it, if they had lost points. Now it’s come to the stage of the season where it seems crazy to have to make a decision."

While Paul Jewell bemoans the timing of the case, Alan Curbishley insists he harbours no grudge against Wigan for urging the Premier League to dock West Ham points if the club were found to have broken rules in their signing of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. When the inquiry into the Premier League charges began in February, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan said: "If anyone has broken the rules they should have points deducted." In today's Telegraph, the West Ham boss states: "I think that is normal. Anybody involved in the relegation battle will be looking at anything and Wigan have voiced their opinion on it. If the boot was on the other foot, we would probably be doing the same. For us the most important thing is to get the points we need and worry about what decision is made later." Whether that is a circumspect piece of diplomacy ahead of tomorrow's crucial game is unclear. What is apparent is that Alan Pardew would not want to see his former club relegated by today's verdict of the three-man panel. "I think, all things considered, it is best if the football decides," Pardew said. "On the pitch is where it matters, so it will be absolutely fine with me if it is the status quo after the hearing."

In a further twist to the trial, The Guardian reveals that Paul Aldridge, West Ham United's former managing director who oversaw the transfers of the Argentinians to Upton Park, has not been called to give evidence to the Premier League disciplinary panel. Aldridge left West Ham after the takeover by the Icelanders Eggert Magnusson and Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson this season but he made himself available to the disciplinary committee and admits he is puzzled why his personal testimony is not wanted. "I've had written correspondence with the Premier League but I don't know if it's been heard," he said yesterday. "I have made myself available but no one's asked me [to attend]. I would like to be there to argue any case against me. I suppose they might think that [the deputy chief executive] Scott Duxbury was and is the legal view at the club and they can rely on that. But there is a charge that the club was acting in bad faith and I would have thought that my testimony might seem useful. We took a lot of legal advice at the time and we were very comfortable with the position."

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