Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Everything By The Rules

The news that Fifa, football's global governing body, is to investigate the transfers of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano will at first sight have heartened Sheffield United and the other clubs arguing that the Hammers were treated leniently. However, Fifa's record in such cases suggests the intervention is nothing but window dressing, and that any investigation will quietly fade away. Glenn Moore, in The Independent, writes that Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, is not a man to stand aside when some posturing is possible, and also that Fifa has already looked into the transfers when it sanctioned Mascherano's January switch to Liverpool. That particular move, in theory, breached rules barring footballers from playing for three clubs in one season and yet Blatter has already stated: "According to our files the transfer of Tevez and Mascherano [from Corinthians to West Ham] was done correctly according to the international transfer of players." An article in The Times also suggests Blatter’s words should be treated with caution, with Fifa sources insisting that they do not intend to challenge the authority of the Premier League’s independent commission. As Moore points out, Blatter was actually responding to a question at Fifa's regular media briefing in Switzerland, rather than raising the issue of his own accord.

The threat of Fifa intervention has forced the Premier League to issue a new defence of their handling of the Carlos Tevez case. A brief statement read: "We have implemented our rulebook and processes to the letter in this matter and we are more than happy to give Fifa any assurances or explanations they need." Last night the Premier League also attempted to quell the growing domestic rebellion over the Tevez controversy as they sent a six-page letter to all 20 clubs setting out the full details of the case and why they allowed the striker to carry on playing following the judgement on April 27. The document is understood to include a detailed description of not only how the commission reached their verdict, but proof that West Ham had severed their ties with Tevez’s owners, MSI, and thus were within their rights to field the Argentina player. Simon Cass, in the Mail, says the 'Gang of Five', which now includes Middlesbrough, are pouring over the details of a document designed to quell the growing clamour for legal action and head off an expensive courtroom battle with the aggrieved clubs, while a piece in The Sun claims it could actually have the opposite effect.

The letter from chief executive Richard Scudamore and chairman David Richards insists the Premier League have done everything by the rules and they are convinced the Independent Commission who imposed a £5.5m fine, rather than points deduction, acted correctly. And there is no case for appeal, especially as any club that has “had its day in court” cannot be “re-tried” by aggrieved clubs. However, Scudamore’s letter also points out that if it is proved West Ham did not properly terminate their deal with the third party in the affair — MSI and Just Sport Inc who owned Tevez — then further action, including a points deduction, could yet be taken. It is this comment, according to the article, that will be seized on by the disaffected clubs. Prior to the April 28 deadline the Premier League received a letter from West Ham sent to Tevez, MSI and JSI terminating the private agreement between them dated 30 August 2006. It also received a letter from MSI and JSI acknowledging receipt of the letter and that the letter had been served on Carlos Tevez personally. In addition the PL board sought additional undertakings from West Ham. However there appears to be no confirmation from the MSI or Tevez side that the deal had actually been ended. This could be seen as a vital flaw. Scudamore’s letter says “if the Board has evidence these undertakings are false or been breached, it will take all necessary steps to enforce Premier League Rules. In making these undertakings it could be that West Ham has exposed itself to further legal challenge from third parties who may contest the legality of that termination."A separate piece in the same paper quotes a source close to the West Ham board as saying: "At one time, West Ham understood that the letter being sent out to Premier League clubs would be made available publicly. I’m sure it is what the West Ham board would have wanted as it would have cleared up once and for all this argument over Tevez. West Ham pleaded guilty to certain irregularities in the initial contract with Tevez but in hindsight I’m sure they wished they hadn’t as there’s a good case that they had interpreted the rules correctly. The Premier League’s mistake was not making it totally clear there wasn’t a problem with Tevez’s registration and he has never had to be re-registered."

Harry Harris claimed yesterday that Carlos Tevez would decide on his future next week. As the striker flew back to Argentina yesterday, Kia Joorabchian said: "I went out to dinner with Carlos last night. He was ecstatic. There was not one word about his future. Three clubs had made it clear they wanted to sign him but I told them to wait until the season had finished. Carlos did not want to discuss his future, he was so wrapped up in wanting to keep West Ham up. I’ll go to the Champions League final, then talk to the clubs who want to buy him. I’ll sit down with West Ham, too, if they want to talk to me about keeping him because you never know. But there are two of the biggest clubs in the world who want him." Harris has followed up this story by claiming Inter Milan launched a £25million move for Tevez last night. Inter president Massimo Moratti is believed to have already opened talks with Joorabchian over one of the most sought after strikers in world football. The article claims Tevez actually wants to stay at West Ham, but in reality he will definitely leave the club, with MSI ready to sell to the highest bidder this summer. Real Madrid and Sevilla are also in the hunt.

Finally, Javier Mascherano has urged the Premiership to forget the politics - and instead celebrate the fact that 'a big club like West Ham' has retained top flight status. The Argentine midfielder is glad that West Ham have produced an incredible escape act with their miraculous late revival, and he insisted that he is overjoyed for the club and for his close friend Carlos Tevez. "I don't know about the politics, and I don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of whether they should be docked points, but I do know that we didn't do anything wrong," said Mascherano. "We just went there to play football, and even though I didn't play much, they still gave me the opportunity, they helped me - everyone, the staff the players and the fans. For that I am grateful, and I believe they are a great club. They are too big and too good to be playing at a level out of the top flight, and so I am happy they survived." Although he barely played during his six months in London, and reached the lowest point of his professional career, Mascherano still believes the experience was good for him, and he doesn't want to see West Ham punished for signing him and Tevez. "No matter what happened to me at West Ham, I am very pleased, very content and very happy that they survived, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have the chance to play in a Champions League Final," he added. "By bringing me to England they gave me this opportunity. Everyone helped me there, and of course Carlos Tevez is my great friend, so I am so very happy for him. They have wonderful fans who always backed me, and the staff and the players were always supportive of me, so I am happy that they have survived, and can look forward to the Premiership next season."

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