Sunday, 6 May 2007

Are You Gonna Bite?

Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?
Mr Blonde, Reservior Dogs
The Premier League is apparently confident it will successfully defend any legal challenge over the decision to fine West Ham rather than deduct points over rule breaches in the Tevez-Mascherano affair, despite the other four clubs threatened by relegation - Charlton, Sheffield United, Fulham and Wigan - confirming last night that they are "in the process of obtaining legal advice" with a view to contesting the verdict. It is unlikely that the aggrieved clubs will be able to raise a credible legal argument because as shareholders in the league the clubs would effectively be suing themselves. As shareholders, the clubs are also signatories to the regulations breached by West Ham. The Premier League believe that the process that led to West Ham's fine is bulletproof and in line with Premier League regulations the case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

There is deep frustration within the Premier League at the rebel clubs' actions, which are seen by some as a wilful misrepresentation of the facts, motivated by desperation. Sources point out that comparisons with cases in which clubs have been docked points for fielding an ineligible player are bogus, because Tevez and Mascherano were correctly registered. Claims that a points deduction is an automatic result of breaching rule U18 are incorrect, because the severity of any penalty is left to the discretion of the disciplinary panel. West Ham are confident they will repel any action, arguing that as the guilty party in the case they cannot be held responsible for the tribunal's failure to deduct points.

The Premier League have also rejected claims by the 'gang of four' that West Ham are still in breach of rules by continuing to field Carlos Tevez. The four clubs have protested that the Hammers remain subject to third-party influence, pointing to the fact that the player's economic rights are still owned by Media Sports Investment (MSI) and that West Ham have had to negotiate with the company before being allowed to play him. After meeting in London on Friday to discuss a possible legal challenge to the decision of the independent disciplinary commission, the aggrieved clubs sent a joint letter to the Premier League board calling for a new commission to be set up to investigate West Ham.

The letter said: "We are extremely concerned that WHUFC remain subject to that [third party] influence and as such there is a continuing serious breach by WHUFC of FAPL [FA Premier League] rule B13." It added: "It is incumbent on the FAPL to convene a commission and proceed against WHUFC in relation to this very serious matter." The Premier League board have yet to give a formal response but a league spokesman indicated that the claims would be rejected: "West Ham have satisfied the Premier League board in relation to the third-party agreement." The Premier League remain confident they have acted properly in clearing Tevez to play because, in the opinion of the disciplinary commission chairman, Simon Bourne-Arton QC, West Ham's private agreements with MSI for both Tevez and Mascherano were not legally enforceable in the first place due to "an obvious restraint of trade", even if the club clearly believed that they were valid, enforceable contracts.

While the Premier League are busy absolving themselves of all responsibility, West Ham are set to face a new challenge. According to reports that emerged last night, a third of the Premiership's clubs are ready to go to court and possibly bankrupt the east London club should they avoid relegation. Furious executives from four clubs - Sheffield United, Wigan, Fulham and Charlton - told Observer Sport that at least two others, not directly involved in the relegation fight, could join them in pursuing a legal action over what they consider to be 'a matter of principle'. Although there appears to be no avenue for a legal challenge against the Premier League, the independent commission found that West Ham had lied to League officials about the players' contracts, breaking rule B13, which states that 'each club shall behave towards each other club and League in utmost good faith'. It is this violation that allows any of the relegation-threatened clubs who believe their interests may have been damaged to sue West Ham privately. They can argue that by lying to and misleading the League, West Ham, in effect, lied to each and every rival club.

'A club might have a claim if they could establish that as a result of West Ham playing players they should not have done, the club was subsequently relegated, and if it could show as a result of that, that they have lost financially because they are in the Championship,' said Gerard Elias, a leading sports lawyer. The clubs are waiting for legal advice, which should arrive by late tomorrow or early Tuesday, before launching their action. If West Ham stay up, the clubs will back a legal claim for loss of Premiership status on behalf of any club who drop into the bottom three. They could claim up to £60m according to figures released last week by the country's leading football financial analysts, Deloitte. Even if West Ham go down, the clubs say, a legal case will go ahead regardless.

Elsewhere, Eggert Magnusson, speaking on BBC Radio Five Live this morning, discussed Carlos Tevez's future beyond this season. "I would like to see him at West Ham for the next few seasons but there are a lot of things that have to be resolved before that happens," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there is interest from other clubs, so will have to see. I don't know at this point in time, we'll see when the season ends. He's a great lad, a great footballer who loves his football and likes playing for West Ham." In response to the impending threat of legal action the West ham chairman stated: "I leave that up to the Premier League. I can understand in a way but I cannot understand going everyday to the press and saying this and that. If they are gong to make a legal challenge they should come out when they decide to do so. That's my opinion." In other words, are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?

On the tabloid front, the Sunday People claim Rafa Benitez is poised to make a 'sensational' £12million raid for Carlos Tevez. The article claims the Liverpool boss met the dodgy Iranian
in a London hotel before yesterday's match against Fulham in an attempt to thrash out a deal. They allege Tevez will quit West Ham at the end of the season irrespective of if the club survive, as the player's agents and owners are fuming about the way they have been portrayed over the controversial deal that has put the Hammers in the dock. The Sunday Mirror have gone with a story that the club will face a second official inquiry, this time from the Football Association. The FA were waiting until the Premier League delivered their verdict before mounting an investigation of their own concerning the FA Cup. Tevez played the full 90 minutes against Brighton and Hove Albion in a third round tie in January and that will be probed by the football authorities. The ultimate sanction could be expulsion from the competition next season but that looks unlikely in the view of the independent commission's assertion that neither of the Argentines was ineligible. Tevez has been given the all clear to play in West Ham's remaining league games, with Eggert Magnusson waiving the right to appeal against the £5.5million fine. The FA can launch their own investigation but without any question mark against Tevez's eligiblity. It is likely they will seek the return of the prize money the club received for reaching the fourth round- £40,000, and possibly the gate receipts which will be in excess of £200,000.

The Star write that four Premiership clubs are on the trail of striker Kepa Blanco, 23, who is on loan from Seville. Although the target for several Spanish sides, Blanco claims Portsmouth, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Newcastle United have all offered him the chance of playing for them next season. Also in the paper, it is suggested that both Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday have joined Watford in the chase chase for goalkeeper Jimmy Walker. Walker saw his Hammers career put on hold through a serious knee injury suffered in the Championship play-off final two years ago. He was not even on the bench against Wigan Athletic last Saturday and news of the interest from Brian Laws and the Foxes could prompt Paul Jewell to make a move. In addition, Aston Villa boss Martin O' Neill plans to make Nigel Reo-Coker his number one summer transfer target as soon as the season ends. The £4million rated Irons captain is expected to leave Upton Park even if the club win their battle against relegation. Villa manager O'Neill has written a shortlist of transfer targets and is determind to add Reo-Coker to his midfield.

Finally, the News of the World has two transfer stabs in the dark. The first is that Martin Jol will launch a £6million bid for Nigel Reo-Coker this summer. It is thought that Arsenal had a verbal agreement with the Hammers that the 22 year old would move to the Emirates Stadium for £10million, but the Gunners have now scuppered this agreement following the emergence of Brazilian midfielder Denilson. The story claims Reo-Coker is determined to leave Upton Park and Jol views the our skipper as the 'enforcer' his side has been missing. An insider at White Hart Lane said "Nigel's name has been mentioned frequently. There will be a lot of change and it will be a surprise if he does not come in." The other story concerns Eidur Gudjohnsen, who is set to sign this summer if the club survive relegation from the Premiership. Alan Curbishley intends to make a £8million move for the unsettled Barcelona forward who has not been a success at the Nou Camp. Curbishley's spending will not stop there though. He is drawing up a wish list for next season which includes Charlton Athletic striker Darren Bent. West Ham was knocked back in their attempt to sign the player earlier this season but if the Addicks go down and the Hammers stay up then Curbishley should get his man.


Stevie B said...

I can understand the "Gang Of Four" being disgruntled with the Premier Leagues decision, but if rule B13 was designed to prevent match fixing, then in this case a hefty fine is sufficient.
We must also bear in mind, this "3rd party" system operates in South America and FIFA accepts this, so should the Gang Of Four take this further with FIFA it is highly unlikely they will get a sympathetic ear with respect to a points reduction.
And where do Liverpool stand in all this? After all, Mascherano is on loan to them. So shouldn't they have a hefty fine? Or even points deducted? Where does it all stop? Having points deducted for fielding weakened teams?
One thing is for sure, the grey areas of the rules have to be looked at and ambiguity must be removed before the game decends into a sueing free for all just because teams are struggling at the foot of the league.

Anonymous said...

Think Man United and the Howard problem are more serious - if wigan go down it will because they are not good enough

Kenneth said...

Where big ££ is involved NOTHING is as it seems - even football results. In comparison this shabby affair makes the Italian league problems look like honest mistakes. Based upon their own precedent, nothing short of a points deduction from WHU by The Premiership hierachy will regain a level playing field. Even then, if possible, they would probably only deduct a couple of points so as to not affect actual final league placings. It's disgusting.

The Hole said...

This is sour grapes, stuff and nonsense.

The third party rule (B13) is a rule designed to prevent match fixing, but nobody not even the most disgruntled of the complainants is suggesting that any match was fixed - Therefore its a technical infringement of the rule and not the serious breach that it is mischeivously being made out to be.

Julio said...

Hi I live in the usa (new jersey) and I am a fan of boca jrs (the team that tevez played in argentina.) I love that guy...he never gives a great luck for west ham united to have him...and I wish the best for the team.

pmead said...

"Let the football do the talking" is a common refrain, and the Hammers have done just that in winning six of their last eight games. It would be mightly unfair if civil law suits or the pusillanimity and ineptitude of Premiership and FA bureacrats were to dock West Ham points simply because other teams in the relegation zone can't get their teams winning to get the right football results on the pitch. There is a strong whiff of schoolboy petulance, bloody-mindedness and unprofessional envy amongst the relegation-prone club consortia who have resorted to legal action to prevent one of their peers remain in the Premiership on the basis of rather better footballing skills and tactics. Whatever happened to the traditional values of English 'sportsmanship'? Surely sacrificed on the altar of money-grubbing 'big business' where the 'beautiful game' is uglified by sore loser chairmen who see their annual remuneration and bonuses at risk because their teams haven't got the ability to win fairly on the park. As Winston Churchill said and which the Hammers team under Curbishley appear to have taken heed of: "If you find yourself going through hell, just keep going." Let the others drop down there instead.

Bill said...

It is ironic that fellow strugglers in the Premier League now want to sue because of the Argentian recruits - perhaps West Ham should be seeking compensation for the loss of Ashton whilst training for England. His presence throughout the season would surely have resulted in more goals and points for the Hammers.

The game itself was superb and West Ham's third goal was truly noble - a fitting testament to the Academy of Football! If West Ham are relegated it will not only be a loss for their fans but also for all who enjoy watching the beautiful game.


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