Saturday, 10 January 2009

Witch Hunts

The Carlos Tévez Affair escalated last night, with Fulham considering a compensation claim against West Ham United should it be proved that the East London club breached further Premier League rules. The Times reports Fulham, and possibly Wigan Athletic, are looking into whether they are entitled to additional prize-money that they would have received had West Ham not finished directly above them at the end of the 2006-07 season. In Fulham’s case, the figure would amount to about £500,000. The Hammers are said to be confident that no further charges will be brought after the FA and Premier League ordered a fresh inquiry into the Tévez affair. The new investigation will focus on assurances made by the club to the League that ensured that Tévez was able to play in the final three matches of the 2006-07 two years ago.

West Ham were fined £5.5 million in April 2007 by an independent tribunal, set up by the League, for an admitted breach of rules in the transfer of Tévez. Sheffield United claimed that the Argentina striker’s goals were instrumental in West Ham’s survival in the 2006-07 season. Despite sources close to the case insisting that West Ham were told they would face no further charges, the League has denied that this was the case. "As announced yesterday, the Premier League and the FA have instituted a joint inquiry into the views expressed by the Independent Arbitral Tribunal chaired by Lord Griffiths," the League said in a statement. "The inquiry will examine whether the conduct of West Ham United immediately after the Independent Disciplinary Commission’s decision of 27 April 2007 amounted to further breaches of Premier League or FA Rules. It is categorically not the case that the club has been informed that no charges will flow, as suggested in The Times yesterday. If there is any evidence of wrongdoing by any party, this will be pursued by the relevant regulatory authority."

'Honest' Dave Whelan believes that the truth (or his version of it) may finally emerge after spending two years campaigning. The Wigan chairman has been an outspoken critic of West Ham and the League over its handling of the Tévez transfer. In May 2007, Whelan called for the resignation of Sir Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, and Richard Scudamore, the chief executive. However, he said that he has raised the issue during regular meetings of the chairmen and his efforts have been rewarded.

"I have been pushing Scudamore and Richards to look into this and to their credit they have been pushing to do that," Whelan said. "I was asked by them if I had some patience and wait for them to investigate. I backed off and what they said came to fruition. I believe that Sheffield United have been very badly treated." Whelan admitted that only Fulham supported the battle. "A lot of the clubs wanted it swept under the table," Whelan revealed. "They never backed Fulham and us up. The big clubs say, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’. People want a smooth ride. I feel sorry for West Ham fans but justice must seen to be done."

The Hammers fear they have become the subject of a witch-hunt over the Carlos Tevez affair, but are convinced they will be cleared of further wrongdoing. Specifically, the club believe that they are victims in a power struggle between the FA and Premier League and have questioned the timing of the announcement of an inquiry, because it comes four months after an arbitration panel ruled that the club were liable to compensate Sheffield United.

The club have now been given 14 days to submit any evidence before the FA and League consider whether there is a case to answer. There remains confidence at Upton Park that far from weakening them further, the new probe will end up strengthening their case in the ongoing dispute over compensation with Sheffield United. United also remain privately confident that the length of any fresh inquiry will rule out any possible points deduction this season. However, the club are furious that the launch of what they feel is a pointless new inquiry will encourage more solvent clubs circling around their top names to redouble their efforts to prise the players away.

There is also concern at board level that the inquiry will jeopardise Gudmundsson’s ability to sell the club. The Hammers had said to have attracted five interested parties after being put up for sale by owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson before Christmas. But after Thursday’s announcement of a joint Football Association and Premier League inquiry raised the prospect of a possible points deduction, any sale now looks unlikely. Gudmundsson’s business empire has taken a hit of £250million in the credit crunch, while Sheffield United’s pursuit for compensation over their relegation in 2007 is another bill ready to land before the season is out. West Ham were prepared to accept less than the £250m valuation, but now a removal from the market now seems the likeliest option.

While the Hammers remain frustrated with the timing of the new inquiry, which comes while they are trying to defend their best assets from predatory approaches during the transfer window, they are at least confident that the legal process will drag on beyond the end of this season, thereby saving them from any possible points deduction this term. And following an investigation into Sheffield United’s books, West Ham’s accountants now estimate the Blades suffered losses of only £8m and not the £50m they claim.

The Mirror's Brian Reade thinks he has the answer to the entire mess. Writing in his column today he states:

The most feared phrase in the English language outside of "surprise visitors" is "the Tevez Affair". And it's coming at us from two angles. Will the FA/won't the FA bankrupt West Ham over him, and will he/won't he join Real Madrid if Fergie doesn't cave in to his pay demands?

Here's a solution. Kia Joorabchian, who holds the economic rights to Tevez, wants £32million from Manchester United and Sheffield United want roughly the same from West Ham who may be worth about £32m if saddled with a crippling points deduction.

So why not send Tevez from Old Trafford to Bramall Lane and give West Ham to Joorabchian?

United would be chuffed as Real miss out. Joorabchian couldn't do worse than the current West Ham owners and the Blades surely won't complain about the £32m price tag as they believe Tevez is the sole reason they are not earning that amount in the top flight.

Elsewhere, an exclusive in the same paper has Craig Bellamy on his way to Manchester City – after boss Mark Hughes made a new £10million bid to see off Tottenham. According to Alan Nixon, the Welsh ace, 29, should be reunited with his old Wales and Blackburn Rovers manager over the weekend as West Ham prepare to accept the new offer. City’s bid is said to include cash up front plus extra money in bonuses, and the Hammers seem sure to sell him and then keep hold of as many of their other players as possible.

Hughes has been backed to buy Bellamy by his club’s money men, but they have yet to increase their offers for team-mates Scott Parker and Matthew Upson, while moves for Kolo Toure and Roque Santa Cruz are uncertain. Bellamy’s way to Manchester was cleared as City finally made a bid for him alone – and put in a valuation better than Harry Redknapp’s Spurs, who were still in the hunt despite signing Jermain Defoe. Hammers will let the striker know their decision today but it looks likely that he is going to team up with Hughes again – and gives the club’s coffers a badly-needed boost. The article suggests West Ham’s strategy is to keep Parker and Upson and sell just one of their so-called superstars, making the books balance by letting other fringe men go.

Confusingly, the Guardian insists Bellamy would prefer to join ­Tottenham Hotspur rather than Manchester City and faces a stand-off with West Ham United if he is to leave the club, because City can offer a far bigger fee for the striker. The paper claims City have "made two substantial bids and are desperate to sign" the Wales international, citing an Upton Park executive, who confirms that Spurs have still not made an offer. Tottenham are understood to be keeping only a watching brief on Bellamy after signing Jermain Defoe this week.

Bellamy, though, reportedly does not want to leave for City despite the presence of Mark Hughes, his former Blackburn Rovers and Wales manager, who is keen to pair him with Roque Santa Cruz if he can prise the Paraguayan from Ewood Park. It is thought Bellamy believes a move to Spurs would give him a better chance of regular first-team football as he fears becoming lost in a City squad which is bound to increase in depth and quality as the billionaire Abu Dhabi owners continue to spend. Tottenham are said to be keen to avoid a bidding war that only City can win, while West Ham believe that Hughes is likely to make a third offer early next week.

Having now sold Matthew Etherington to Stoke City for £2m, loaned Lee Bowyer to Birmingham City and with Calum Davenport's possible departure (Bolton are today rumoured to have pulled out after landing Zenit St Petersburg's Sebastien Puygrenier on loan instead), West Ham are maintaining they will not be forced to sell any of their best players. Yet the club accept Bellamy is the most likely to leave of a group that also includes Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Scott Parker. While the 29-year-old is keen to depart because of an 18 months in which he has made only 19 league starts, the same article suggests there is a feeling in east London that he has under performed since joining from Liverpool for £7.5m.

According to a curious article in The Express, Gianfranco Zola has been told he will have to rebuild his West Ham squad from scratch in the summer – regardless of the result of the Premier League’s new Carlos Tevez inquiry. As you might expect from that particular newspaper, what passes as sports journalism here is actually substance-free sensationalist conjecture based on a spurious worst case scenario hypothesis. The cash-strapped Hammers face the threat of a heavy fine or a points deduction and still have Sheffield United’s compensation claim hanging over them. But whatever happens with the two investigations, Zola has supposedly be warned that his current playing staff will largely be sold off and he will have to build a new team in preparation for next season.

One questionable bright-spot on this bleak Saturday sees Lucas Neill happy to stay with the club. A piece in the Sydney Morning Herald explains how that photograph of Socceroo Lucas Neill at an AC Milan training session in Dubai last weekend was framed by more fiction than fact. Neill's appearance at a training camp for the Italian side in Dubai during the Serie A winter break was widely reported as evidence the Socceroo was poised to quit West Ham United to join David Beckham and Ronaldinho at Milan.

However, The Sun-Herald reveals Neill was in Dubai on a club-sanctioned trip and was accompanied by a West Ham physiotherapist during his stay in the Middle East. The West Ham captain was invited to watch Milan's training session, close to where Neill was staying, by friend and former Socceroos teammate Zeljko Kalac, one of the Italian team's goalkeepers.

"Lucas was given permission to take four or five days off by West Ham and they even assigned one of their physio team to look after him for a few days," said Neill's agent, Paddy Dominguez. "Lucas knows Zeljko Kalac very well and he was invited by him to come along and watch training. Milan made some enquiries about Lucas previously but that was a year and a half ago. We haven't spoken to them recently about him going there or playing there. The truth is that he was there to see a mate."

With the new year ushering in speculation season, Neill has been linked with a move from West Ham during the January transfer window. With six months left on his contract he is free to talk to other clubs ahead of becoming a free agent in June and speculation has suggested West Ham may seek to sell him for a fee while they can. However, Dominguez said neither Neill nor West Ham had signalled any intention to part ways, contradicting newspaper reports that suggested last week Neill had been told by West Ham he "will not be getting a new deal" and "he can leave the club for free in the January transfer window".

"Lucas will be staying for the rest of his contract," Dominguez said. "He is happy at West Ham and West Ham is happy with Lucas. He has no intention of leaving and he has been told they have no intention of letting him go." As a defender who may be available to other clubs for free in six months, any potential sale of Neill would be unlikely to generate sufficient funds to make a sale worthwhile for West Ham. The only reason they may consider shedding Neill during the transfer window would be to slash their wage bill. Neill does have potential suitors though. Following Harry Kewell's transfer to Galatasaray, the Turkish club also made an approach for Neill - Kewell's close friend - but was rebuffed by West Ham even though a considerable fee was touted.

Back on the pitch and Zola insists he loves playing away from home — as he hopes to make it the joy of six. United travel to Newcastle today aiming to extend their unbeaten run on the road to half a dozen games, and the Hammers boss says the results — two wins and three draws — have given him a renewed passion for his job. He said: "I’m very pleased with the away form and the team looks solid. The confidence is coming back to everybody — even the manager! What we need to do is put a bit more distance between us and the clubs behind us. But Newcastle will be tough because they need the points."

No comments:


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