Wednesday, 16 May 2007

It's not soccer, it's football...

... well it certainly isn't cricket. Football and legal battles have been hitting the headlines a bit recently. Jose Mourinho was arrested this week after he appeared to smuggle his dog out of his house under the noses of the watching police officers. Apparently he claimed he needed to make an urgent phone call, which I can only assume was genuinely to set up a meeting with a man about a dog. Meanwhile, the IPKat reports that Michael Ballack and Oliver Kahn have achieved something of a victory. It's probably just as well that every puerile football fan's favourite German forward and Paraguayan defender weren't involved or the puns would be out of control.

The real burning issue of late has surrounded West Ham and Carlos Tevez, the Argentinian international stiker they signed in convoluted circumstances last year. (They also signed Javier Mascherano at the same time in roughly the same way, but this hasn't been the focus of so much recent attention, presumably because he is now at Liverpool and didn't play a part in helping West Ham stay in the Premiership). Amid much furore West Ham eventually admitted to breaching two Premier League rules; B13 ("in all matters and transactions relating to the league, each club shall behave towards each other club and the league with the utmost good faith") and U18 ("No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract to acquire the ability materially to influence its policies or the performance of its teams in league matches or in any (other) competitions.") Having admitted this they were spared a points deduction and hit with a hefty £5.5 million fine. Cue much uproar, which has seen Sheffield United seeking to take the Premier League to arbitration proceedings. As far as I can make out the main complaints with the decision relate to the factors taken into account by the Hearing in the decision not to deduct points. Some of these factors are plainly nonsensical, especially these two:

Four, there has been a delay between the discovery of these breaches and these proceedings. Whilst that delay is due to no party's fault, the consequence is that a points deduction, say in January, whilst unwelcome, would have been somewhat easier to bear than a points deduction today which would have consigned the club to certain relegation.
Six, we have considered the position of the players and the fans. They are in no way to blame for this situation. Of course, if the impact upon players and fans was to be the overriding consideration, there may never be a deduction of points. However, in this case, the fans and the players have been fighting against relegation. They have been doing so from between January and April. They have been so doing against the ever-present threat of a deduction of points. Those efforts and that loyalty would be to no avail were we to now, on what might be termed the eve of the end of the season, to deduct points.
So what? Those are pretty poor reasons for leniency. I think far more relevant is the finding that "had the club in time made disclosure of the third party contracts to the FAPL, then, in all probability, contracts could have been entered into which would not have offended the Rules." Basically, it didn't really make any difference - no harm, no foul. Of course if West Ham have lied about the new arrangements regarding Tevez then it could all kick off again.

As the club with the most to gain at West Ham's expense Sheffield United's response was understandable, if a little lacking in dignity, until the ridiculous 21 team league suggestion. Dave Whelan at Wigan is just getting annoying. Middlesbrough appear to have joined in out of bitterness at the 3 points taken off them years ago. Tottenham are keeping quiet, presumably because of their history of 'buying' points back.

Anyway the full judgment is here, but perhaps they should just take two points off of West Ham and be done with it.

Elsewhere, Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd appears to have agreed to sell Michael Owen to a group of Liverpool supporters for £9 million. He presumably hasn't mentioned this yet to new manager Sam Allardyce, who is now ridiculously the third highest paid manager in the Premiership. I wonder just how much of his £3 million annual salary will be coming indirectly from the BBC, who Allardyce still won't talk to despite not making good on his threat to sue them. Hmm, that kind of attitude will get you the England job.

Finally to round off this bumper and rather rambling post, The Magistrate's Blog has beaten me to another bit of tabloid law coverage.

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