Sunday, 18 January 2009

Case For The Accused

It is an interesting Sunday tabloid round-up, even by this club's exceedingly high standards. Aside from the latest Craig Bellamy speculation (more of which later), the News of the World kicked off the morning with a spectacular double page 'exclusive' purporting to reveal the documents the Hammers will use to plead their case in the forthcoming Tevezgate inquiry. While I am far from convinced that Rob Beasley's article addresses all the issues surrounding the affair, it nevertheless provides some intriguing details...

The News of the World today publishes the documents West Ham insist will prevent them being hit with a points deduction and another massive fine in the long-running Carlos Tevez scandal.

The Hammers face a fresh investigation into allegations they broke strict rules on ‘third party’ agreements after the Premier League and the FA launched a new joint inquiry into the Argentine’s registration earlier this month.

So today, we publish the full, incredible story of how former Hammers boss Alan Curbishley personally handed Tevez a terse legal letter West Ham claim terminated his controversial third party agreement with the club. And how a tense 24 hours of sensitive phone calls, letters, faxes and emails resulted in the Premier League clearing Tevez to play in the Hammers’ final three games of the season which secured their top flight survival.

The Londoners are stunned at the new inquiry after they were fined a record £5.5million in April 2007 for playing Tevez when he was not owned by the club. However, the new probe has been prompted by the findings of FA arbitration panel chairman Lord Griffiths following Sheffield United’s £30million compensation claim after they were relegated while West Ham stayed up. Griffiths ruled Hammers chief executive Scott Duxbury had misled the League over the termination of the club’s third party agreement with Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, who owns Tevez’s economic rights.

Joorabchian’s lawyer Graham Shear gave evidence that Duxbury verbally assured him their third party agreement was still in place — despite Duxbury informing the Premier League West Ham had terminated it. But West Ham are adamant these documents will prove the agreement had ended BEFORE Tevez was cleared to play in the final game of the season when he scored the winner against Manchester United which kept the Hammers up and sent Sheffield United down.

Duxbury last night declared: "We welcome the new investigation because it is our chance to make it perfectly clear to both the FA and Premier League that we did everything in our power to terminate the agreement we had with Carlos Tevez and satisfy all the demands of the Premier League in order for him to continue as a West Ham player. Tevez’s advisors claim the third party agreement still existed despite the termination, but we dispute that that is the legal position. I saw it as my job to make sure Tevez played and helped the club in the fight against relegation, even though it was clear he was very unhappy with the agreement being terminated. I made it clear to Tevez’s advisors that if Carlos stayed and helped us to the end of the season then, yes, I would not stand in his way if he wanted to leave for another club. We contend that is not a third party agreement, that is simply part of running a football club and doing everything in the best interests of West Ham. Unfortunately, Lord Griffiths appears to believe that some official agreement still remained in place. That’s why we welcome the new inquiry so we can explain our position absolutely."

Duxbury, former West Ham chairman Eggert Magnusson, Joorabchian, Shear and Blades chairman Kevin McCabe will all be asked to submit evidence to the new inquiry. The key date in the Hammers’ defence is April 27, 2007. That is when West Ham claimed they provided documentary evidence to the Premier League confirming the termination of the agreement — including a signed letter from Curbishley confirming he had personally handed a termination document to Tevez.

It was addressed to Carlos Alberto Tevez (the ‘player’), Argentinian citizen, single, professional football player — and included his identity card number and his national tax ID number. It was dated April 27 and signed by Magnusson, who had written the termination letter that morning. The Icelandic businessman was responding to a no-nonsense ultimatum from the Premier League who had fined West Ham £5.5m for non-disclosure of documentation and ordered them to scrap the third party agreement.

The League had examined the deal — which gave West Ham use of a player who was actually owned and controlled not by them but by Joorabchian’s two companies based in the British Virgin Islands. Premier League general secretary Mike Foster informed West Ham they had until 12 noon on April 28 — the day of their vital League clash at Wigan — to "modify the third party agreement in a fashion satisfactory to the (Premier League) board or terminate the third-party agreement outright" or Tevez would not be allowed to play again. It was a bombshell that began one of the most dramatic days in the club’s history.

So Magnusson immediately scripted a curt 81-word letter to Tevez, MSI Group Ltd and Just Sports Inc & Co making it clear the "Private Agreement dated 30 August 2006 between the Club, the Player and the Companies in relation to the services of the Player" had been "hereby terminated with immediate effect, and shall cease to have any further force or effect."

Then, just after lunch, West Ham’s lawyer Philip Cheveley emailed the Premier League a copy of Magnusson’s letter. Foster replied but insisted: "We require evidence that the notice of termination has been served. We also need you to notify the player, as he is party to the agreement in question, and provide evidence of this." So under-fire Curbishley, fighting to save his job and the club from relegation, took charge. He simply couldn’t afford to lose one of his most influential players for the last three games of the season so decided the termination letter must be served, and quickly.

However, in Curbishley’s letter to the Premier League he admits Tevez refused to acknowledge receipt of the letter. Curbs wrote: "I hereby confirm I have handed the attached letter to Carlos Alberto Tevez and asked him to countersign it to acknowledge receipt. Mr Tevez has declined to countersign the letter, but I confirm that he has now received it."

Curbishley’s confirmation was swiftly forwarded to the Premier League, while Cheveley emailed Shear and asked to confirm receipt of the notice terminating their private agreement. Later that afternoon Shear responded, saying: "I acknowledge receipt of your email and the purported ‘notice of termination.’ I shall take my client’s instructions, in the meantime all my client’s rights remain fully and expressly reserved."

Cheveley then emailed Foster again to ask for confirmation that the Premier League were satisfied with West Ham’s evidence and that Tevez remained registered to play for the club. But the Hammers had to wait until 10.57pm that night for the all-important clearance.

In an email to Cheveley, which was copied to Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, Foster wrote: "I can confirm you have satisfied requirements of Board and player is eligible to play." But, ominously, he warned: "Board may have to review situation dependent on future developments and, in particular, if your termination of agreement is challenged."

The day before the final game at Old Trafford, when Tevez scored to keep West Ham up, Magnusson sent another letter to the Premier League confirming the club’s view that their private agreement with Tevez had been terminated. Foster replied by fax, email and post to Duxbury, again confirming that Tevez "remains registered with and eligible to play for your club." The ramifications of the saga are still reverberating around Upton Park — even though Tevez is now playing for Manchester United.

During the FA arbitration, Shear was asked if Duxbury assured him that West Ham would not depart from the terms of their deal with MSI. Shear said: "Broadly, yes. West Ham were desperate to ensure Tevez played for the club in the critical last few games of the season. Whilst having no choice but to adhere to the Premier League’s requirements, West Ham wanted to do everything possible to attempt to placate the rights owners."

And Lord Griffiths said in his ruling: "If the Premier League had known what Mr Duxbury was saying to Mr Joorabchian’s solicitor following the commission decision, we are confident the Premier League would have suspended Mr Tevez’s registration as a West Ham player." But West Ham are hoping their dossier of evidence will finally bring a positive end to the most controversial saga in Premier League history.

The same paper claims Manchester City have landed Craig Bellamy, who will supposedly move in a £14m transfer this week. The striker walked out of West Ham on Friday after a £12m bid by Spurs had been rejected. As soon as Bellamy said he would not play against Fulham today after turning down a new Hammers contract, the club realised they had to do a deal. They quote a club insider as saying: "There was no way we were going to sell to Tottenham."

The People agree, insisting Manchester City upped their bid to £14million last night in an attempt to hijack Tottenham's move for the Welshman. According to their story Zola sat down with Bellamy last week to try to convince him to stay at Upton Park but it was made clear he wanted to be allowed to talk to other clubs. The player wanted to stay in London by moving to Spurs but Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has now resigned himself to missing out on the Welsh firebrand. No talks will be granted between any club and Bellamy before West Ham have accepted an offer, which is why City have upped their bid. United, who signed Bellamy for £7.5m, would prefer to sell to City rather than their bitter London rivals but now it looks like coming down to money, which puts City firmly in the driving seat.

Amusingly, the Sunday Mirror report Tottenham fans have bombarded club websites in mass protests against the signing of Bellamy. And the signs are that the 29-year-old striker, who stormed out of West Ham’s training ground on Friday, will move to Manchester City. Bellamy was refused permission to speak to Spurs about a move to White Hart Lane on Friday, yet speculation about his potential recruitment sent angry Spurs fans into meltdown. They deluged the club and independent websites with demands that the Wales striker must not be signed, as his abrasive approach has caused problems at previous clubs. Even though manager Harry Redknapp is desperate to sign the striker, Spurs fans fear he would be a negative influence at their club. The paper states the Hammers won’t be forced to sell Bellamy, and to that end City's latest bid of £14milllion was turned down last night. The player has been named in the West Ham squad for today’s game against Fulham and if he fails to turn up he will be handed a two week fine.

As the Craig Bellamy saga rumbles on, Gianfranco Zola admits he is disappointed by the way the affair has been handled - but says there was little he could do to keep the star. Lashing out at the way some football business is conducted and vowing never to abandon his principles, Zola is quoted in the Mirror as saying: "I want to keep Craig, but no player is bigger than the club. He wants to leave and he has his own reasons, but I only want a player who is totally committed to the club. The whole transfer window is a nonsense. It means everything's about money and I think it should be closed down. Contracts don't seem to be worth the paper they are written on. I am proud of the way I operate, but some behave differently. I'll never change the way I do things. I will stay honourable."

Other snippets include West Ham leading the race to sign Brescia strike prodigy Savio Nsereko. The Mirror thinks Gianfranco Zola plans to raid his native Italy for the £6m-rated German youth international. And Hammers director of football Gianluca Nani, who previously worked for Brescia, has led transfer talks for the 19-year-old. The Uganda-born player's form this season has also attracted interest from Juventus, Roma and Napoli. Nsereko's agent Patrick Bastianelli said: "West Ham are in pole position to sign Savio. They are the club that has offered him the most interesting project, and they are keen to do a deal in a hurry."

The same paper speculates United could also make a £1million move for Sweden Under-21 star Mikael Lustig, with Lucas Neill's future at the club still in doubt. According to the gossip pages Neill is out of contract at the end of the season and certain to leave Upton Park with Newcastle desperate to sign him. The Hammers have started making plans for life without their captain, with Lustig at the top of the short-list. The Sunday Express, by the way, take the opposing view and think Neill is keen to commit himself to a new contract.

No comments:


Copyright 2007 ID Media Inc, All Right Reserved. Crafted by Nurudin Jauhari