West Ham United & Sheffield United – Friends At Last?

By on Mar 18, 2009 in English League Football | 5 comments

Almost two years after the event, and at a considerably lower price than the offenders might have expected, Sheffield United and West Ham United have finally reached a settlement over the aftermath of the Carlos Tevez affair. I noted on here a couple of years ago that there was a slightly grubby element to the whole story – it was proof, as if proof were needed, that money is now the driving force between the Premier League. West Ham United, desperate to maintain their Premier League status, didn’t so much bend the rules as twist them into a complex piece of sculpture. Sheffield United, relegated on the final day of the season, played the Sword of Damocles card and, hungry for vengeance, gave every impression of wanting to drive West Ham to the wall with their desire for compensation.

Having at first decided that they deserved over £30m in compensation (an amount of money that would have seriously jeopardised West Ham’s future), the settlement reached seems to display at least a modicum of common sense. The final figure agreed is £15m, to be paid in instalments. However, in a peculiar twist to the story, a number of lice are now coming out of the woodwork claiming that they too should be compensated for, well, West Ham not getting relegated in 2007. Top of the pile is Neil Warnock, their manager at the time. Never mind that Warnock was out of contract n the summer of 2007 and that Sheffield United hadn’t offered him a new contract (if they thought that he had done such a good job and that their relegation was such a travesty of justice, why didn’t they offer him one and end up with – stop sniggering at the back – Bryan Robson in charge there?). There’s a chance that free money may be on offer, and Warnock wants a piece of the action.

He’s not the only one. Players from the team are considering suing for loss of earnings. “There has been contact for some considerable time with West Ham’s lawyers, and we could go towards arbitration,” Chris Farnell, the lawyer representing the players said. “I think it (arbitration) is more likely to happen than not”. In addition to this, Ken Bates has also been sniffing around, stating that his Leeds United (who, as you will probably remember, were in the summer 2007 absolute paragons of moral rectitude) deserve their slice too. When they got relegated on the last day of the season we lost a substantial sum. “If they are being compensated for their loss then we believe we should be compensated for our loss”, said Bates. Presumably, he’ll pay this money to the creditors who were left high and dry by Leeds’ increasingly suspicious looking CVA during that summer.

And herein lies the rub. This site has never held any particular affection for West Ham United. However, the decision to pursue legal action of this kind against a fellow club was always going to end in this sort of undignified bunfight. The fact of the matter is that, no matter how unjust it may seem, taking the litigious is always likely to kill the game in some small way. Perhaps the answer to this would be for Sheffield United to pay the compensation that Neil Warnock and these former players feel that they are due. After all, had United stayed up, this is what presumably would have happened. Alternatively, if Sheffield United and/or Neil Warnock feel that the Premier League bottled out of deducting West Ham United points, then perhaps they should be suing Peter Scudamore et al instead. It’s also worth considering the fact that, because the whole matter has (still) been handled internally through Premier League disciplinary procedures and arbitration, no legal precedent has yet been set. Ultimately, this whole grubby mess seems set to rumble on and on, and football in general seems a little worse off for it.

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    5 Comments

  1. West Ham have achieved the virtually impossible and started to make me feel sorry for them. This wasn’t a case of onfield cheating. There was no hint of brown envelopes passing hands to fix matches. Just a dodgy player registration technicality. How the Prem. must have wished it had done the sensible thing and deducted points at the time of the offence, but I suppose they had assumed West Ham were relegation certainties at that point, so that would have been no real punishment.

    And now that financial wizard Bates has started circling, you know the situation has descended into complete farce.

    Jimmy Cass

    March 18, 2009

  2. As an Ipswich Town supporter I’m considering sueing West Ham for the additional travelling costs in getting t Sheffield as opposed to East London.

    Neil

    March 18, 2009

  3. I am very surprised that the media hasn’t made even more of this development. As I understand it, it has been suggested that Lord Griffiths’ key finding was that West Ham had not “torn up” the offending contract after the initial tribunal had required them to do so, but instead simply told the FA Premier League that they had done so whilst executing a verbal side agreement with Kia Joorabchian to confirm to him that they were not intending to simply walk away from that contract. This alleged deceit then enabled Carlos Tevez to play in the final three games of the season. Tevez’s contribution in those three games then formed the basis of Sheffield Utd’s case.

    However, potentially at least, the most significance consequence of this development is not the compensation paid by West Ham to Sheffield Utd or the more fanciful follow up actions by Neil Warnock, the players and the opportunistic Ken Bates, but rather that at long last the FA and FA Premier League have been “forced” into a serious review of the entire affair. If, hypothetically, it is found that West Ham deliberately misled the FA Premier League to enable Tevez to play against Wigan et al then the consequences could be explosive. I can recall a number of occasions when Clubs throughout the leagues (though typically not the big Clubs) have been docked significant numbers of points and even relegated outright, but I do not remember an offence as premeditated or as serious. What would West Ham’s punishment be? Another fine might be seen as a complete sham. In the meantime, at the FA Premier League, it would very hard for Richard Scudamore and David Richards to argue that the deception was so subtle that it wasn’t obvious that they should have taken action sooner. How could they possibly survive?

    The cynical view would be that the joint enquiry will obfuscate and attempt to draw a line under the long-running saga, but if it does not and instead confirms Griffiths’ alleged suspicions then expect fireworks.

    Chris Cheetham

    March 20, 2009

  4. Surely the admin on this website agrees, that it was West Ham in the first place that has led to this situation.

    If West Ham had have gone down they wouldn’t have even got this money they did in the first place. They may have now had to pay out upwards of £20m which is a lot, but they have benefited more from being in the Premier League. I don’t feel sorry for West Ham at all.

    It would do more damage to the game, if teams could cheat their way to onfield success.

    Ross

    March 20, 2009

  5. Good points are made by the author of the article and Chris Cheetham.
    As I understand the reasoning of the arbitrator, the liability of the Hammers to pay compensation to the Blades lay in contract. Both clubs were members of the Premier League and bound between themselves to obey the rules of the League. Where a club did not obey those rules and caused loss to another club, then compensation can be ordered to recompense the club suffering the loss.

    The Blades’ entitlement to compensation was founded upon it being a member of the Premier League, Neil Warnock was not a member of the Premier League and neither was Leeds United. Mr Bates and Leeds have the further problem in that the company running Leeds and to whom the Blades were contracted to make further payments in respect of players, has got into liquidation. Any money recovered would go to the creditors of the old company, not the new company now running Leeds. Although last time I looked Mr Bates claimed to be the most substantial creditor, this status was disputed by HMRC.

    Ron Ipstone

    March 22, 2009

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