Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Endgame

West Ham United were last night facing a multimillion-pound lawsuit in the battle over the future of Carlos Tévez after the player’s agents issued a writ against the club. Legal proceedings began after Fifa refused to rule on the player’s potential transfer to Manchester United, referring the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne. The Premier League had hoped that Fifa would mediate to resolve the situation, but football’s world governing body backed away from making a ruling that it feared could be challenged in a court of law. "It is not a matter of refusing to arbitrate but a recommendation in the interest of all parties involved in the complicated affair," a Fifa spokesman simpered. Instead, lawyers for Media Sports Investments and Just Sports Inc - the companies who held the economic rights relating to Tevez when he moved to Upton Park last August - have lodged a breach-of-contract claim with the courts.

So the Carlos Tevez chess match marches resolutely towards the endgame now that one side has deviated from the well-thumbed book that had been channelling the dispute along more conventional lines. The Guardian claim West Ham, who say they are "happy" to go to CAS, are puzzled as to why Tevez's camp would head for protracted route of the civil courts. Mathieu Reeb, secretary general of CAS, believes the case could have been heard before August 15, with a verdict from the arbitration panel likely to be returned before the closure of the transfer window; a High Court case could take months to be heard. Yet sources close to Joorabchian said the businessman believed an "open and fair" process in the High Court would be the swiftest way of deciding whether the likely £30million transfer fee from United should go to him or the Hammers. Whatever the time scale, The Sun think this latest development in 'soccer’s longest-running row' is a major setback to United’s hopes of signing Tevez. They insist their best hope of landing the Argentine striker before the transfer window closes on August 31 is to now agree a transfer fee with West Ham. Then it would be down to the High Court to rule how much compensation the Hammers would have to pay Joorabchian’s company MSI. An Old Trafford spokesman last night said: "We are hopeful that there will be an early resolution. We are happy with our case and confident he will be our player at the end of the transfer window." The Guardian state Joorabchian is willing to take the risk of a less swift process if he can guarantee an open and public hearing, such as is the case in the High Court. CAS - where decisions are binding and which may be appealed only on procedural grounds - would announce only its verdict, without providing details of its reasons.

The Mail insist that the Iranian is unwilling for the evidence to be heard behind closed doors as he is keen to prove he has
nothing to hide. By playing the 'Joorabchian Variation', Tevez's representatives are adopting a high risk strategy with the battle lines now clearly drawn. "The companies seek the court's intervention to compel West Ham to release the registration of Carlos Tevez in accordance with contracts entered into between the parties," said Graham Shear, a solicitor for MSI-JSI. They are ready, suggest the Guardian, to highlight Tevez's eviction from his home - a flat in Canary Wharf that had been organised for him by West Ham - while he was away on Copa América duty with Argentina this summer. They will claim this is proof that the Hammers have not been consistent in asserting their rights over the player. Under pressure from the Premier League to stick by their decision to pull out of the agreements with MSI-JSI, West Ham will rely on Tevez's three-year playing contract and the registration document they hold as evidence that he is their own asset. The Hammers would also draw in their defence on the belief expressed by two QCs in a Premier League disciplinary hearing in April that the third-party contracts held with MSI-JSI are legally unenforceable.

Last night a source close to MSI threatened that in the course of the hearings, the infamous 'damaging documents' will be exposed that in all probability
have not been seen by the Premier League. An incendiary piece in the Express states that throughout the saga, the Hammers and the Premier League have both claimed all the relevant paperwork regarding Tevez has been reviewed. Should this be found not to be the case then West Ham could face a points deduction for the start of the season – or even relegation which would see Sheffield United reinstated. Tevez is no longer challenging his ownership, but is instead contesting West Ham’s claim he is contracted to the club until 2010. The original third-party agreement Joorabchian held with the Hammers contained clauses allowing the striker to move at his or his owner’s will in any transfer window. They believe it should still be possible to exploit the clauses because they did not consent to the termination of the agreement. Under the same clauses, MSI would receive all the transfer cash, barring a £100,000 ‘thank you’ to the Hammers.

Yesterday's development was the realisation of a threat that has been outstanding since April. Joorabchian claims that West Ham unilaterally ripped up the contract that was agreed last summer when Tévez and Javier Mascherano, his Argentina teammate, arrived at Upton Park. Those deals were deemed to be in breach of Premier League rules by a commission that fined West Ham £5.5 million in April. As part of the punishment, the club were forced to extricate themselves from the contract with MSI and JSI, a move that allowed Tévez to play in the final three games of the season, helping them to avoid relegation. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s chief executive, said that West Ham would have to abide by the decision the club made in April, which allowed them to play Tévez. "They were given three options,” Scudamore said. “The one they chose has made it difficult for them, but we will see that that choice is upheld. They could have gone a different way." Had West Ham chosen to maintain the contract with Tévez’s agents, the forward would not have been allowed to play for the club again. MSI and JSI argue that they did not agree to the contract being terminated. West Ham claim that they are only one year into a four-year deal with the striker. Last night, the club were consulting their lawyers.


Johnny said...

This is a mess that the Premier League also have to put their hands up to. It is their rules, not any laws, that West Ham were in breach of. No-one has done anything that is illegal, yet. Sadly West Ham cannot unilaterally pull out of a contract so what they did, and with the blessing of the Premier league was dishonest, but not at the time illegal as they had not tried to avoind the terms of the contract. This whole problem would not be an issue in any other country as they do not have these 3rd party ownership rules.
To be fair the whole contreversy over 3rd party ownership, with this and with loans deals, shows what an incompetent governing body the Premier League is. Maybe they should be bought up on charges of bringing the game into disrepute. Although as the governing body can they sue themselves?
Can't we just get on with things, it's only football? Oh. I got that wrong, it's only money

Fraser said...

All Joorabchian cares about is money. HIS ( he thinks ) money. If he wins, it will be an appalling day for football. FIFA wanted to refer the case to further arbitration. What is wrong with that? Come on Man U, what are you doing making deals with this person?

Toby said...

Tevez is too good to stay at west ham. United is the biggest club in the world, west ham should not stand in their way! if the small time london club stop this going through they can expect to be the most hated club in english football for the second straight year!

Stanley Baker said...

Brian of Harrogate, Quit moaning Sheffield were never good enough for the Premier and so went down. If they had been good enough they would have stayed up.

Jimbo said...

I hope the high court don't waste too much time on this silly matter. Football should sort out it's own problems and not take up the valuable time of important instiututions like the high court. Basically this story is "rich bunch of people want share of money from other rich bunch of people." I don't begrudge them the money but I do wish they'd stop moaning. No doubt which ever side loses this one will cry foul and whine and moan about how it's not fair and that the high court don't understand football, as if it were governed by a different set of rules and laws to other businesses.

The Guvnor said...

Well done West Ham UNITED for standing firm. The club has endured hostility from all sides over the past few months and is now getting more flak for sticking to its guns. As with the relegation fight, I fully expect the club to ride out the storm and become stronger for it. Eggert Magnusson has led West Ham admirably throughout this affair and has consistently acted with grace and pride while others have conducted an unseemly squabble. As for Tevez - he remains and will always be a West ham hero, wherever he ends up. Come on you Irons!


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