Saturday, 5 May 2007

The First Shots

Breaking news courtesy of Reuters delivers official confirmation that four clubs are taking legal advice after the Premier League decided against deducting points from West Ham United over the signings of Argentines Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. The report states Charlton Athletic, Fulham, Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic are unhappy West Ham were fined a record 5.5 million pounds ($10.97 million) last week, rather than receiving a 10-point deduction for breaching the league's ownership rules. Sky said representatives of the four clubs met at the Harrods offices of Fulham owner Mohamed al Fayed on Friday. "The (league) board are given power under the rules to 'inquire into any suspected or alleged breach of these rules," read a statement from the four clubs addressed to the Premier League. "The FAPL (FA Premier League) have a duty to act in good faith and with reasonable diligence. That duty extends to investigating an alleged breach of the rules where there is some apparently credible evidence of a breach. You should understand we are separately in the process of obtaining legal advice arising out of the terms of the decision. You can expect to hear from us in relation to this in the early part of next week. In the meantime all our rights in that respect are reserved." A Premier League spokesman said: "We will consider the contents of the letter and respond accordingly in due course."

The statement comes on the back of news earlier in the day that Sheffield United are considering legal action against both West Ham and the Premier League in the wake of the Hammers' points deduction 'let-off' last week. The Blades became the first club to publicly confirm this intent, chairman Kevin McCabe revealing the club had lawyers assessing whether action could be taken within hours of the verdict being delivered. "There was no hanging around, no grass growing around our feet," said McCabe. "We took this course of action independently of anyone else in an attempt to try and protect ourselves should we suffer as a consequence of this bizarre decision. We have some excellent and reputable lawyers who have already been looking at this matter for us for a week. Obviously we hope that we don't suffer as a result, but we felt this needed to be done." The article in The Guardian suggests the legal battleground would centre around precedent and the punitive options available to the panel at the time.

Middlesbrough, initially linked to the “Gang of Four”, are not so keen to be implicated in possible legal action, questioning whether it could be successful. According to a lengthy article in The Times, Steve Gibson, the Middlesbrough chairman, spoke to Sir David Richards, his Premier League counterpart, about the matter, but distanced himself from Whelan’s plans. Middlesbrough were docked three points — and relegated as a result — ten years ago after failing to fulfil a fixture because of injuries and illness to 16 players. Although Gibson would privately shed no tears if West Ham are relegated, he will remind Whelan today, when Wigan play Middlesbrough at the JJB Stadium, that his club do not wish to be involved in any group action.

In the same article, it is revealed Carlos Tévez will play against Bolton Wanderers in the vital Barclays Premiership relegation battle today, despite West Ham United not having signed a new agreement for the Argentinian’s services. The Times understands that Kia Joorabchian, who owns the rights to the forward, has not agreed to terminate the contract, meaning that the club could still be in breach of Premier League rules. West Ham had been instructed to cancel or amend the contract because the agreement with Joorabchian potentially allowed him to affect club policy. West Ham told the Premier League that they had “unilaterally” cancelled their contract in a letter to Joorabchian, who has taken legal advice after talks with the club yesterday. The Premier League has accepted West Ham’s version of events, without contacting Joorabchian, and has given permission for Tévez to play for the rest of the season. It is believed that Joorabchian may have given his permission to play the forward today, but the club will probably have to pay the businessman significant compensation to avoid a court case. Whatever the truth, the confusion over Tévez’s situation will further anger the four clubs around them in the fight for Premiership survival.

Whether Carlos Tevez would be allowed to play was almost a moot question. According to a story in The Daily Mail, the little Argentinian will need an injection to help him play through the pain for West Ham on Saturday after spending the week in an oxygen tent in a bid to make the crucial Premiership fixture with Bolton. Tevez has been having daily sessions in the oxygen tent to speed up his recovery from the injury, sustained during an intense training ground session. In fact, so ferocious were the training exercises this week that Alan Curbishley had to call a halt for fear of incurring further injuries. Tevez only declared himself fit to play late last night but a close friend said: "He is desperate to play in this game. He probably shouldn’t because the injury is sore, but after all the furore of the week and the support of the West Ham fans, he will be there. He would play on one leg for the West Ham fans. He wants to score a goal as a thank-you because they have been behind him during this difficult time."

Glenn Moore in the Independent claims the quartet - Wigan Athletic, Sheffield United, Fulham and Charlton Athletic - last night asked the Premier League to review West Ham's continued use of Carlos Tevez. The four clubs want the league to examine whether, as press reports have suggested, Tevez remains subject to "third-party influence", a breach of Rule U18 for which West Ham were punished last month. It has now become the new area of focus as all involved seek to put the brakes on West Ham's recent revival. For their part, the Premier League have also taken legal advice and been told their position is unassailable. They argue the commission, headed by an eminent QC, Simon Bourne-Arton, was independent, had a full range of sanctions available, and that league rules do not mandate a specific punishment.

Alan Curbishley, who has largely distanced himself from the inquiry, has also spoken out. The Independent says West Ham's manager has tried to insulate his team from the situation as he prepares them for a match they know could be rendered irrelevant by court proceedings. "I can understand where the other clubs are coming from," he said, "but look at the system which prevents Tim Howard from playing for Everton against Manchester United, but will allow him to play against Chelsea. Look at the system which allows Premiership clubs to loan out influential players to Championship clubs. It's significant that the two clubs coming up, Birmingham and Sunderland, both loaned players from the Premiership."


Jack said...

The FA set the rules when they deducted points from Boro in 1997.As for the other teams down at the bottom they can only blame themselves not good enough?
As a Boro fan i feel Cheated for something i feel was only minor to this situation a case of the blessed south again. This stinks of bias, no wonder everybody is leaving the game.

Regards, Jack

Keiron said...

if charlton,wigan,fulham and sheff utd were not in the relegation battle would they be interested no i doubt it,a independant body gave the fine abibe by it or more of a case it didnt go our way so its off to court till we get our own way.whats the point in having a independant panel in the first place or did these clubs object to that no dont think so,

Zoff said...

Just sour grapes from poor losers desperate for a lifeline in case they go down ! Would rather have a team like West Ham in the premiership than all the skills and passion of these 4 poor losers combined. The FA made the right decision lets move on.

ex-pat Frankie said...

It's strange that Watford FC, who
currently lie bottom of the
Premiership, and are destined to
be relegated, have not joined this "gang-of-four", probably because
they accept this was not their
season. Meantime, this
"gang-of-four" would do well to
remember that their premiership
survival is in their own hands,
based on on-field performance,
and not seeking ways and means
through other club misdemeanors.
Sour grapes methinks.

Paul said...

West Ham have broken the rules, and should be deducted 3 points, because that it the precident that has been set previously throughout the leagues. They could well stay up even with this deduction, which proves the panel didnt know what they were talkin about when they said that a points deduction at this stage of the season would condemn West Ham to certain relegation. We cany accept the decision of the panel when they cleary dont understand the rules or the game. The FA have made it harder than it needed to be, and this could drag up until the start of next season, then what happens?

Sir Laurence said...

The Boro situation was a different kettle of fish. Boro were deducted three points after failing to fulfill a fixture. It was a harsh decision, but nothing to do with the current Tevez/Mascherano affair.
Dave Whelan and co don't have a leg to stand on. English law is based on precedent, and there is no precedent for deducting points in a situation such as West Ham's. In fact, this entire saga is unprecedented. There is no law that compelled the FAPL to deduct points from West Ham. They had a choice of punishments and opted for the heavy fine.
Whelan and his Wigan side ought to concentrate on beating Sheffield United next Sunday.


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