Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Sermonising Claptrap

Just when West Ham thought they could kick back and relax, Fifa says it will look into Carlos Tevez's transfer to the Hammers. Fifa president Sepp Blatter said the game's world governing body had the power to pass a final verdict on an independent commission's decision to fine West Ham £5.5m for having a third-party agreement in Tevez's contract.Speaking at a media briefing in Zurich, Blatter said: "We will monitor this situation very carefully and once this situation is dealt with by the league and the FA we will ask for the files and have a look because we have the right and the responsibility to see how such cases are dealt with. The matter is linked with a club in Brazil - Corinthians - and with the ownership of this club and the ownership of the two players. According to our files the transfer of Tevez was done correctly according to the international transfer of players." Responding to questions from a persistent English journalist, Blatter added: "We will look at this - and not only if we are asked, we will do it anyway. We will ask for the file once it has been decided how and why the decision was made. If we feel something was wrong in this decision then we have to open our file." Invoking a recent ruling by the Swiss federal court against Spanish third division side Rayo Vallecano, Blatter insisted Fifa does have jurisdiction over individual clubs. "Yes we have the power," he said. "The Swiss federal court has made a ruling by saying that Fifa and its associations have the right and the power to use all 14 sanctions of the disciplinary code starting with a warning and ending with exclusion of a member via relegation and deduction of points." Confusingly, a Fifa representative told BBC Five Live Sport that it is not re-examining the evidence with the aim of testing the Premier League's ruling, while Michel Platini told Sky Sports News that the decision to not dock points was "up to the Premier League."

West Ham's case was strengthened last night when the BBC's Inside Sport programme broadcast details of a letter, dated April 27, which appeared belatedly to resolve the controversial shared-ownership issues in Tevez's contract. The letter, sent to the player, Kia Joorabchian's investment vehicle Media Sport Investment and Just Sport Inc, said: "We hereby notify you that the private agreement (as so amended, varied, modified or replaced) is hereby terminated with immediate effect and shall cease to have any further force or effect." It is the 'missing' piece of evidence that would be central to undermining any legal challenge from the 'Gang of Four'.

Wigan's owner, Dave Whelan, claimed yesterday that Tevez could not have been properly re-registered after West Ham were fined. He said the league had effectively created a new transfer window. "I don't think there's any chance of reversing the decision but we still believe that Tevez has been playing illegally," said Whelan. "West Ham should be relegated and they should be relegated in the next fortnight, £5.5m sounds a lot but it's nothing in terms of what they'll earn in the league. My sympathies lie with Sheffield United because they have been treated very, very badly and the fight to get them reinstated by me, by Fulham, by Charlton and by Middlesbrough continues." That will be news to Middlesbrough , with chief executive Keith Lamb stating his club would not be party to action against the league. Whelan also launched a personal attack on Richard Scudamore. "It's widely accepted that he did a good job on the renegotiation of the broadcasting agreements," the Wigan chairman said. "I've always respected him. But, on this one, I want him to be a bit more up front, take responsibility and admit they were wrong. And get the thing put right."

In the Digger column, Paul Kelso claims the Tevez rebellion poses one of the biggest tests of Scudamore's eight-year leadership. Having delivered a record £2.7bn television deal to the chairmen, he might have expected more support but the issue could also complicate negotiations over a new redistribution deal due to be discussed at the league AGM on June 1. A compromise acceptable to a majority of clubs may be harder to fashion as a result of the fall-out of the last week. A major consequence of the ongoing unrest among Premier League clubs over is a delay to the resolution of the Stevens bungs inquiry. A statement on Stevens was put back from last week and will now be held over for at least another seven days as Scudamore attempts to kill off the Tevez affair. The Premier League board - Scudamore, chairman Dave Richards and company secretary Mike Foster - has yet to meet and decide what action to take, but with some clubs uncomfortable about Stevens, it has the power to cause further unrest.

A two-page spread in The Telegraph claims legal proceedings will be stepped up this week. David Bond says the bitter dispute over Carlos Tevez will escalate today with the aggrieved parties seeking a judicial review of the decision not to dock West Ham points for breaking rules on third-party ownership. Following talks yesterday, the disaffected clubs will write to the Premier League this morning appealing for an arbitration panel to be set up to examine whether the decision by an independent commission to fine West Ham £5.5 million was "flawed." If the League refuse, then Fulham, Wigan, Sheffield United and Charlton will go to the courts to seek a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the decision. Fulham director Stuart Benson, a lawyer who is helping to co-ordinate the four clubs' case, said: "The fight continues and the clubs stand firm. We are grossly dissatisfied. The fact that the relegation issues have been sorted out makes no difference whatsoever." With one top sports lawyer suggesting yesterday that the fairest way to solve the crisis would be to allow Sheffield United to play on in a Premier League of 21 teams next season, Whelan reiterated his support for the team his club helped send down. He said: "The West Ham situation is in the hands of Sheffield United, we fully support them. Fulham do, Charlton do, Middlesbrough do. We have to clean all this up. Time is on the side of the Premier League, I have said to Sheffield United that they must get stuck into the League's bones in the next seven days. Sheffield United have told me they have a fantastically strong case." United plc chairman Kevin McCabe added that he would be seeking the support of more Premier League clubs in the coming days. He said: "It needs conversations with respective chairman and directors for them to understand all of the injustices but most of them do know that already. There is a consensus most clubs support an injustice so I hope we will get the vast majority of clubs in the Premier League supporting our case."

While all the forces of civilised Christendom seem to be ranged against West Ham, Sue Mott declares people should spare us the sermonising claptrap demanding that natural justice be done against the lying, cheating Hammers. If the rules had been properly upheld, she writes, then offering prayers to the deities of Just Causes would not have been necessary. There seems to be some muddle-headed thinking that West Ham should have done the decent thing and gone down. But that is the trouble with not punishing miscreants. They are thrilled and unrepentant. They tend to find this in the world of criminal justice too. Let off a burglar with one of those nice detachable tags and instead of volunteering for social work, he jemmies open another window and makes off with more loot. Having failed to punish West Ham properly, Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, had to watch as they appropriated another £35 million - the rewards of being in the Premiership. He can argue it was an independent tribunal that made the crucial decision. Who appointed the independent tribunal? No one should blame West Ham for this failure of moral justice, argues Mott. Survival is a highly-tuned human instinct, to which many a moral has been sacrificed down the centuries. West Ham remain a Premiership club because the Premier League were too feeble to back their own rules. It is the story of the chicken and the egg. And this time there's no question which one came first.

In other news, Gary Jacob in The Times claims Alan Curbishley is ready to ring the changes despite Premiership survival. According to the story, staying up will have little effect on the shake-up at West Ham this summer, where about a dozen players are still likely to depart. Curbishley will have about £30 million available to spend on players and will have discussions tomorrow about the transfer strategy with Eggert Magnússon. The West Ham boss will be able to offer competitive wages in his bid to sign Eidur Gudjohnsen, Craig Bellamy and Yakubu Ayegbeni, who are among the forwards that are being considered. In midfield, Curbishley is likely to try to prise Scott Parker, who played under him at Charlton Athletic, from Newcastle United, and a goalkeeper to replace the out-of-favour Roy Carroll. The recent good run of form has not changed Curbishley’s mind about certain players – or their opinion of him. Anton Ferdinand, Nigel Reo-Coker and Yossi Benayoun are expected to request moves, with Tottenham Hotspur a likely suitor for all of them. Marlon Harewood, Paul Konchesky and Hayden Mullins have long fallen out of favour with the manager. Harewood has attracted interest from Wigan Athletic. Teddy Sheringham has laready admitted he has no future at the club while Matty Etherington told the Evening Standard that "I've had four great seasons but I need a change."


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