Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Spanish Inquisition

The dispute over the future of Carlos Tevez has been scheduled for the High Court on 22 August. The court date was set at the preliminary hearing this morning and it would mean the 23-year-old missing the first three games of the season but should ensure he can still join United before the transfer window shuts on 31 August. Joorabchian's lawyers have applied to the court for an interim injunction in a bid to speed up the legal process. Barrister Charles Hollander QC stressed the need to hear the injunction element of the case before the transfer window closes on 31 August. He said: "The end of the transfer window is looming and Manchester United may be starting to look in other directions." Should they win, the ruling would allow Tevez to move to Old Trafford with the financial elements of the dispute sorted out at a later trial. West Ham oppose the injunction, claiming their third-party agreement with Joorabchian is legally "invalid and unenforceable", but the club made no attempt to block the fast-track process.

A High Court judge will now deliberate on the arguments at the three-day injunction hearing when Tevez, along with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and West Ham director Scott Duxbury, are expected to be cross-examined. "Does Mr Tevez speak English?" Justice Blackburne asked at today's hearing; having clearly not seen the player's post-match interview at Ewood Park. "Not much," exaggerated Joorabchian's barrister, Charles Hollander QC, before the judge suggested employing a translator. Defending West Ham, Michael Bowsher QC revealed the club intend to challenge the "authenticity" of a key document relating to the third-party agreement signed by Joorabchian, Tevez and Duxbury. It was suggested in court that handwriting experts may even be called upon to support their argument over the validity of the contract. Bowsher said: "The signatures of these individuals other than those signatures from West Ham were not made on the date purported to be made on and that is relevant."

Though a hearing date has been set, West Ham and the Premier League are still hopeful of an out-of-court settlement. "We have taken the steps in case this matter is to go through the courts - this does not preclude an out-of-court settlement. But it is no more or less likely now," said a West Ham spokesman. A statement on the official site reads: "West Ham United will continue to work on achieving an out-of-court settlement on the issues relating to Carlos Tevez. However, if a settlement, to be agreed by all parties, is not possible then the Club will present a very robust legal case to the High Court if the matter comes before the court on August 22nd."

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