Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Point Of Law

I said there is no justice
As they led me out of the door
And the judge said, "This isn't a court of justice son
This is a court of law"
Having spent the past seven weeks and the best part of half a million pounds 'on their fight for justice', Sheffield United discovered yesterday that unremittingly sensationalist media coverage, emotive and ill-informed public statements, mud-slinging, posturing and half-hearted marches on parliament don't amount to a hill of beans when it comes to a point of law.

In a 36-page ruling on the decision taken in April to fine West Ham £5.5million rather than dock them points over the "deceitful" way the club handled the signings of Argentine pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, the Premier League's arbitration panel agreed with some of the Yorkshire club's arguments. "We have much sympathy for Sheffield United's grievances arising from the decision and the manner it was arrived at," said panel chairman Sir Philip Otton in his judgement yesterday. "We would go so far as to say that this tribunal would in all probability have reached a different conclusion and deducted points from West Ham. We would, for example, have given much more weight to the deliberate deceit by West Ham officials which concealed the existence of third-party arrangements. However, these considerations are not sufficient. The tribunal has to test the decision on whether it was irrational or perverse when it was reached. This is very difficult to satisfy on a question very much of judgement and discretion."

Writing in The Telegraph, David Bond stated that it was 'exactly the sort of judgement relegated Sheffield United will have been dreading'. It was in essence a refutation of their claim, yet not one unequivocal enough as to deter further legal action. Bond believes the arbitration panel's decision was all the more frustrating for its acceptance that the termination of the side agreements with the mysterious offshore companies who own Tevez were still in doubt. While West Ham say they have unilaterally terminated them, Tevez's agent and part-owner Kia Joorabchian has not acknowledged that and is keeping his options open. The most likely outcome, insists Bond, is that he will use the termination to get more money out of West Ham or secure a bigger move for the striker. "It is obvious that the possibility of the third parties' ability materially to influence was not entirely excluded. Indeed it may still exist," said the ruling. But it later adds: "In short, the arrangement may not have been legally watertight but it was a practical and workable solution to a difficult situation."

The Times insist Sheffield United are now considering taking their fight to the High Court to force Kia Joorabchian to hand over paperwork relating to the transfer of Carlos Tévez to West Ham United. They believe the businessman, who owns the economic rights to the Argentina forward, has documents that could have important ramifications for the Yorkshire club’s hopes of challenging the decision not to deduct points from West Ham for breaching Premier League rules. The paperwork has never been seen by the Premier League. Sheffield United are also considering whether the panel’s misgivings may imply that the original Premier League commission that met in April, placed excessive weight on inappropriate reasons, such as taking fans into account and not docking points because it would have consigned West Ham to certain relegation. Sheffield United believe that if that were the case, they could overturn the decision in a separate case against the Premier League’s decision in the High Court.

An article in The Independent claims Blades chairman Kevin McCabe would be ill-advised against taking their fight for Premier League reinstatement to the courts. Respected litigation lawyer David Sheahan believes the three-man panel acted correctly and a judge would reach the same conclusion. "There are a number of avenues open to Sheffield United but wherever they turn I believe they will be faced with the same conclusion," said Sheahan. "They could go to court but from the reasoning I have seen I think they would struggle there. The courts don't want to get involved in issues like this. You still have the fundamental principle that what the independent commission did [in deciding not to dock West Ham points] was not wrong. Everyone else may have done something different but it was a reasonable conclusion. There had been no precedent. The tribunal panel was effectively made up of people who would be judges. As far as I am aware they used the same sort of test as a judicial review and that is the conclusion they have still reached."

The Sun, in their usual restrained manner, insist Sheffield United are now threatening to throw the new season into chaos by taking the case to the European courts. They insist it could lead to fixture chaos, suspension of all English clubs in Europe and even threaten the England team's participation in Euro 2008. Rent-a-quote sports lawyer Mel Goldberg believes the Hammers have been let off the hook. He said: "Do I think it’s the right decision? No. It’s clear to most people that the injured party has not received justice. Not only that, there is a precedent here when Middlesbrough were docked points for not adhering to the rules on fulfilling a fixture. The fact is that the Premier League has admitted — as have West Ham — that West Ham fielded players whose registration was partly owned by a third party. The rules were broken and everyone in the world knew it." But Goldberg warned Blades not to go to court looking for 'justice'. He said: "Premier League rules state all clubs who sign up must abide by decisions, including disciplinary commissions."

'Honest' Dave Whelan's mouthpiece are making fresh calls for the resignations of Premier League chiefs Richard Scudamore and Sir Dave Richards. An entirely predictable article quotes the Wigan chairman as saying: "Justice has not been done. It's been a botched affair. All kinds of things have been done incorrectly and, from what I can tell, covered up. And so much time has been wasted getting to this point. Why, when they knew about this shortly after Christmas, did it take until the end of April to have the original hearing? And why is it only now, in July, that we have reached this stage? I'm sure nothing can now be done for Sheffield United and that is very sad. It just isn't right. What the arbitration panel are saying backs up everything Wigan, Sheffield United, Fulham, Charlton and Middlesbrough have been saying all along, and if the arbitration panel think it's wrong, then Richard Scudamore and Dave Richards have seriously got to consider their positions."


eric said...

What is really of concern is that Joorbachian, Zahavi and many more have recived carte blanche.

The same way the Bosman ruling had a big influence on player transfer and free agenncy, the tacit acceptance of third party ownership (remember Mascherano is NOT owned by Liverpool) this whole affair resulted in, will have a mayor impact too.

Get ready for players in the lower divisions being bought on the cheap and offered to PL clubs on loan. This means much more movement and 1 year contract galore. Even 6 months loans.

PL clubs will be used as shop windows for third parties, who will ultimately have the last word as when and where a player goes.

From the GU sports section

"Magnusson also raised the possibility of Tevez staying at Upton Park next season, despite interest from clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United. "I would like to reiterate that Carlos Tevez is a registered West Ham player with a playing contract that still has three years remaining on it and that situation remains unchanged.""

POSSIBILITY? Why dont you just declare him non-tranferable? Maybe because although he is registered for WH, you actually dont OWN him and have a private contract with a third party on which they can sell him unilaterally? This is b@ll*cks

Digger said...

I find it correct that Sheffield United have failed in their bid to be re-instated. I find it more disgraceful that a team tries to employ lawyers to over turn matters they lost on the pitch. Especially for such a minor technocratics issue. The media and some bitter fans may have been supporting Sheffield United out of the English trait to back the small guy. But there was no history set and I am glad they have wasted time and money on expensive lawyers for a case they were never going to win. The case had nothing to do with justice it was always more about money. They feared they where going to lose out on the big TV deal and whipped up the media and their own fans with the false claim it was about getting justice. I hope I never see such a small time and bad football team in the Premiership again. I for one am glad that Neil Warnock career is in the wilderness. The way he attacked Ferguson and Benitez for fielding weaken teams was outrageously arrogant of such a small time manager. He has to realise that you stay up by your own team winning games not by other teams line ups. I laughed because he resigned from Sheffield United stating he only wanted to manage a Premiership team and when he realised not a single Premiership team was interested in him. He contacted skysports news stating he just wanted a "fresh Challenge" with any team. Warnock is just a crap manager that plays crap football and I hope his unemployment continues.

Duncan said...

The Premier League got it wrong. West Ham deliberately broke the rules and in similar situations in leagues around the world the normal course of action is to dock points from the team. The precedent was set by the Premier League docked points from Middlesborough when they failed to field a team due to losing 16 players to flu (or perhaps one of Bryan Robson's team talks made them ill, the Blades will find out next season, relegation and Bryan Robson, what have we done to deserve this!).

The whole episode has left a bad feeling and I can not help looking at West Ham, Watford, Charlton, Sheff U and Wigan and feeling that the Premier League decided to give a helping hand to the team it felt would bring more monay into the product that we all used to lovingly call football.

Sherwood said...

Put quite simply this decision proves that cheating can be profitable in the Premier league. If one reads the full decision then you will come to the following conclusion;

West Ham clearly broke the rules in August 2006, fact.

West Ham lied for 4 months about breaking the rules, fact.

West Ham then owned up to the breaking of the rules (in January 2007) and pleaded guilty at the original disciplinary hearing - said hearing decided not to deduct points from West ham, as was normal in these cases, because of the following;

"There has been a delay between the discovery of these breaches and the proceedings. Whilst the delay is due to no party's fault, the consequence is that a points deduction, say in January, whilst unwelcome, would have beensomewhat easier to bear than a points deduction today which would have consigned the club to certain relegation."

The fact is that West Ham had lied to the Premier League for 4 months, then a further delay for the hearing meant that they decided against a points deduction - so the moral is, if you cheat, continue to cheat and then lie about it until later on in the season and if you are in the bottom three they won't deduct any points, meanwhile your cheating gets you out of the relegation zone and you get a measly slap on the wrists.

This decision stinks to high heaven and the Chief executive of the Premier league, Mr Scudamore, should hang his head in shame.

Royale with cheese said...

Sheffield United were relegated because they did not get enough points. Their desperate, shameful scramble to the courts was never going to change that. It is clear that many of those people arguing their 'case' on this blog just do not understand what happened. There were no 'ringers', no one was 'ineligible' no one 'cheated' and there is no precedent of points deductions for third party influence.
This has been the most prolonged and ridiculous case of sour grapes ever seen in football - and that's saying something. The club are clearly very poorly run. You only have to look at their latest managerial appointment to see that.

Ozzie said...

Given that the blades themselves have transgressed the very same law as the hammers we have to conclude that the law in this case is one of two things.One, it can easily be inadvertently broken or two it is so vague as to invite clubs to break it in the belief that they will get away with it.
this case should at a minimum get this law reviewed and hopefully changed so it is unequivical in its meaning.We love our game and i personally do not want the future of my club decided by bloody lawyers

jimbob said...

As I understand it, its been shown that West Ham did have the proper registration for both players, if this hadn't been the case then there was a precedent for a points deduction.

As it was about 3rd party influence of the use of the players, there was no precedent, so therefore the original panel had free reign just about in the punishment they could dish out.

Noone's calling for Man Utd to be docked points for making Everton agree not to play Tim Howard against them despite him having signed permanently. I'm sure its disappointing to be relegated but get over it.

Greenbeans said...

West Ham were clearly in the wrong for signing Tevez and Mascherano according to League rules. But this came to the League's attention and they farmed out deliberation to an independent counsel. Once that was agreed to by the League and clubs they have to abide by the decision. You can say the independent counsel was wrong, that it was a crap decision etc etc but in the end what is the League going to do - put a system in process, wait for the result and then just change it anyway? What would the point of that be? What was West Ham supposed to do? They got busted and they sat quietly and waited for whatever punishment was coming becuase the decision was out of their control. Stop complaining about the PL, stop complaining about WHUFC. It was a system everyone agreed to and while the initial decision was bad the PL, WHUFC and now the second investigation have to abide by it.

As for Tevez still playing, if 3rd party influence was so big in WHUFC why did Mascherano hardly play?

Ken said...

Well, the most recent panel have admitted that, had it been them making the decision, West Ham would have been docked points, so I think it's fair to say the Hammers have got off lightly.

For all those having a pop at the Blades on footballing grounds - who really deserves to go down? The team who spend 7m, stick to the rules and who nearly stay up?

Or the team who lie, spend 21m, AND get two world class players for nothing (one of whom they're too crap to use properly and yet who ends up playing the Champions League final), and yet still only stay up because their last two games are against a Bolton team who have literally just lost the manager that have helped them overachieve for seasons and has been replaced by someone with no management experience at all - and who are, consequently, absolute rubbish, and against the Manchester United Under 19 side?

Let's be honest - that West Ham team were awful last season, and deserved to go down anyway. Losing 6-0 to Reading? Losing 3-0 to Sheffield United, for that matter? They lost 4-0 to Charlton. Bolton beat them 4-0. They were useless, and with that squad, it's unforgiveable.

queenie said...

So let me get this straight, Kabba is allowed to be used as a pawn in a third party gentleman's agreement within the league that warps the results of games (i.e. exercises 3rd party influence) and nothing happens and that's fine but the potential for 3rd party interference by a 3rd party outside the league and West Ham should be hung, drawn and quartered?

The words hypocrisy, karma, sore losers and schadenfreude immediately spring to mind.

The game is awash with 3rd party influence as the kabba, Howard and Tevez cases (amongst many others) all show, so if SU fans (and others) are serious about the issue, do something about the problem rather than the symptoms only when it suits your team. That's if you want any credibility on the subject of course.

Jimmy said...

Who starts a Premiership campaign factoring a strategy that that a side that finishes above them might be docked points at some point for one reason or another at some point?!!! SU were rubbish, thats why they are down and their board has made the club and their fans look ridiculous - RIDICULOUS- by pursuing this. WH were slightly less rubbish with the advantage of a shonky player deal and they are going to be hated this season anyway.

Ken said...

To those wringing their hand piously about the Steve Kabba deal - get a grip.

The FA have probed 'reports' - ie West Ham fan Martin Samuels using his position of influence to smear another team to try to get his own off the hook - that the Blades might have done something similar to Manchester United, and for which United were emphatically unpunished.

The fact is that Kabba didn't play a lot of games anyway because, er, he wasn't very good. He didn't play against Charlton, for example. Is that because the Blades wouldn't let him be fielded? He missed the Sheffield United - Watford clash in May. So what? He only made 2 starts in the whole of May. He only made 6 starts for Watford in total.
He wasn't even on the bench for the remainder of Watford's games once Sheffield United had beaten them. That's how much of an 'influence' he had on the results.

MP said...

It's a safe bet that nearly all of the contributors to this blog (and most of the journos covering the story up and down the land) have not read the full statement of the arbitration panel or the original disciplinary tribunal. Ill-informed tosh (I don't include you, Trilby, in this) has become the limit of the public's processing capacity, and nowadays most of the media can't be bothered to do the serious research that is necessary for providing anything better.

Nearly all of the overheated comment on the West Ham - MSI - Carlos Tevez affair has been due to superfluous observations of the tribunal and the panel. The tribunal could have simply stated that it considered a points deduction to be disproportionate and left it at that. Instead, it saw fit to throw a bone for the media hounds to scrap over by listing those notorious "seven justifications" (only a couple of which were even considered controversial). Similarly, the panel has now thrown a completely unnecessary bone to the media by declaring what it "would have done" in the tribunal's position. This has nothing to do with the terms of reference of the arbitration panel, which was not and could not serve as an appeal tribunal in the original case. It was no part of the panel's remit to re-try the offence, still less to declare what it "would have done".

At several points the statement of the arbitration panel strongly implies that the original disciplinary tribunal expected West Ham to be relegated. The latter half of paragraph 39 even describes the outcome of the tribunal's decision as "unfortunate in the extreme", given the club's results in the last three games of the season. Well all I can say is that they should have spent less time studying lawbooks and more time reading Roy of the Rovers.

slim said...

Doesn't the registration of a player include the lodging of his contract with the Premier League?

As West Ham clearly hadn't done this how can Tevez be described as registered.

And how can a panels decision can be described as rational when it included the caveats that they were concerned with the distress to the fans and the timing of their deliberations?

Or that they thought there were no presidents, an idea that suggests that they have grasp of the concept?

bedfellow said...

If West Ham pay any part of Tevez's fee to a third party does that mean his post first hearing registration was also illegal and they would be subject to sanction which would of course be relegation....

No no one will want to follow this up but if West Ham have to pay the spiv the pathetic Tevez sold his career to then they should be sanctioned as they have compounded lies and evasion with lies and evasion.

Indeed what is shocking is ala Ridsdale Brown and co can waltz into any football club they want just like blood stained billionaires from abroad. Shocking.

queeny said...

No, its the 1 page FIFA form he signed that said he voluntarily wanted to move from Corinthians to West Ham and was financial at Corinthians that made him a registered West Ham player. This has nothing to do with the manager/agent contracts, back handers and brown paper bags that makes up the rest of world football.

Alex said...

The media in general deserves huge criticism for the way they have dealt with the issue, which has allowed such inaccuracies to become received wisdom for most football fans it seems.

One point to consider is that West Ham pleaded guilty to the original rule breaches - this is a very different thing to admitting actual guilt. It would be nice to actually get to the bottom of what actually went on at West Ham early last season, and a shame that having been tied up in Premier League politics and a media witch-hunt West Ham chose the safest option of not contesting the claims.

queeny said...

The basic issue that SU fans (and their fellow travellers) need to wrap their minds around is that up until this year NO ONE thought U18 applied to loan contracts. If you asked every owner and manager in the Premiership privately about whether, in hindsight, they had in the past breached U18 in regards to loan contracts they would have to say yes. Which is why behind all the bluster, there are some serious tightening up of loan contracts going on at the moment to ensure that this problem is minimised in future.

You can say that due to the confusion, uncertainty, lack of precedence, and noted breaches by many other parties of the same rules in the past, the 4th official was happy with the yellow card dished out to West Ham during the match. You might instead complain it should have been a red, but to keep on carrying on about it long after the match video people have gone home, sounds like the sourest of sour grapes.

fish said...

Not least Rick Parry who was apparently happy to sign exactly the same contracts that got West Ham into trouble with Joorbachian regarding Mascherano. Unitl he showed them to the FA and he was asked to change them to standard loan agreements.

It always seemed to me that that original offence regarding contracts was minor to the point of being almost a technicality (albeit a reasonable one) and that most significantly West Ham gained exactly competitive zero advantage form this breech of the rules. If the contracts had been revealed in August the most likely outcome is that Tevez and Mascherano would have joined WHU on standard loan agreements as Macherano did with Liverpool.

The grave crime West Ham committed, however, was when Aldridge lied to the Premier Leauge. It's clearly a serious offence that needs a severe punishment and a £5.5m fine is certainly that. To those who think this is getting off lightly consider that £5.5m is enough for a solid Premiership player and which West Ham will no longer be able to buy.

There is absolutely no reason to suppose or require that West Ham should have been deducted points for any of the above. If they had been it would hardly have been unfair but to claim it was somehow mandated or established b precedent is just flat wrong.

blade 101 said...

Well we are talking about a loss of income that approximates to about £25 million so the notion of being hard done by is an insufficient description of what has happend. It's financial fraud and West Ham have got away with it. The loss of premiership status will be a significant blow to a club that was preparing to become a mainstay in the premier league. As it is we should be alright with parachute funds etc and there's no getting away from it we were 10 points ahead of the relegation zone at one point and we failed to capitalise on this. Neil Warnock has been great for United. It's just a pity that his tactical ability didn't match his motivational ability otherwise we'd still be in the premiership. Anyway i'm looking forward to next season and i'm hoping that all blades are, we'll be back up to the premiership. It's a sordid league. Every aspect of it has been tainted by greed and West Ham now opitimise that attitude. West Ham v Blades promises to be a tasty fixture in the future and it's probabbly best that Magnusson, Tevez and anyone else associated in this sordid saga stays away from bramhall lane. I look forward to visiting Plymouth next season.

Oggy said...

The question to ask, is why were Liverpool allowed to play maschereno.
If the PL were happy for JM to play for the scousers when, from what i have seen, there was no formal change of his ownership arrangements then surely that same arrangements were in place at West Ham

If the arrangements needed to be changed (as no doubt it will be clearer when the report of where the funds go for any transfer fees for Tevez or JM is prepared) then clearly liverpool could have been implicated in these arguments- but they weren't and there is no suggestion they will be

Simply West ham admit they lied about the paperwork- but ultimately the question is, if they had originally disclosed the proper paperwork when they should have would the 2 argentinians have been allowed to play- and as liverpool show- the answer is yes

Unless the PL admit that they effectively bent the rules to allow JM to play for Liverpool (and thereby open a whole new can of worms)then West ham were always going to be ok
Maybe the grown up reaction to all this would have been to ask the PL to change their rules on ownership to reflect the realities of S American football

TC said...

West Ham have been shockingly treated by a lazy unbalanced media, tabloid and broadsheet, and a phenomenally hypocritical football establishment. Has everyone forgotten that

- West Ham were entirely at the mercy of the independent tribunal, it is not our fault that points were not deducted in the original judgement;
- precedent, that fine legal source that we use in the courts of England and Wales, does not, no matter what all the know-nothing non lawyers on here and elsewhere say, clearly support the view that West Ham should have had point deducted;
- Carlos Tevez, legend now that he is, did the square of zero goal wise for us before February, so for most of the season his effect was insignificant;
- Masherano I think started 2 or 3 times and did not alot each time;
- the argies themselves were a massive destabilising factor for the club for most of the season;
- unless some of you have forgotten there are 11 members of a football team and Tevez, good though he is, is not Maradonna (and even he couldn't have dragged West Ham to victory the way we were playing around Xmas time);
- lying, at board level, is common place in football (which is only just one up from boxing in the Corruption Top Trumps) and any club that denies it is, you guessed it, lying;
- the nature of the deals to buy Tevez and Masher were very well publicised at the start of the season and the FA, UEFA, FIFA, the PL, hey even the Sheffiield Utd board did nothing about it - if third party contracts were so verboten this seems very odd and adds to the fact that it would have in no way been natural justice to impose a relegation-inducing points deduction on West Ham because it was too late - too much had happened on the pitch, not least, us turning in the biggest comback since Lazarus and the Blades bottling to the tune of being 10 points clear from the drop zone at one point;
- it is not West Ham's fault how much business the three relegated clubs will now miss out on;
- the fine imposed was a RECORD fine and I'm sure I don't have to labour any contrast with say what Chelsea get for tapping up Ashley Cole, arguably a far worse offence; and,
- West Ham had lead striker (after Tevez) Dean Ashton injured for the entire season, so if Sheff Utd want to talk about "bad luck", that is just one example of just how much of it West Ham had last season.

raymondo said...

As a Hammers fan frankly I would rather thet West ham hsd got points deducted, at least then they would have known waht to do to get tehemselves safe and would have got the credit for their escape, and who's to say that even with a 3 point deducytion they wouldn'yt hqve stayed up? SU would not have been able to whinge and the whole thing wouldn't have hung over the club and the fans for two months (or longer if SU pursue it further) after the end of the season. THAT would have been fair to the fans of both clubs. SU have managed to keep the vitriol of the press pouring over WH all that time (bar Martin Samuel). The judgments of both tribunals do not tell the whole story. The PL assumed that WH would be relegated and presumably indicated to the original panrel taht they wern't looking for a points deduction. Hence the comments by the arbitration panel yesterday:- "It is to be doubted that the FAPL (or anyone else) foresaw the spectacular results of the last three matches which saved West Ham from probable relegation". Sorry nobody told West Ham what theyb were supposed to do, clearly they din't read the script!


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