Depending on your view of West Ham United, the FA’s decision to fine them £5.5m is either a rare case of them calling a disciplinary decision correctly or they fudged it to avoid making a difficult decision. On the one hand, £5.5m is a lot of money. It’s out of the league of the fines that are usually handed out for this sort of thing. On the other hand, however, there was a powerful case for a points deduction and, had one been given out in this case, it would almost certainly have guaranteed their relegation from the Premiership. Relegation might well have cost them ten times that much money.
I am, as you may have gathered from my previous posts on the subject, against points deductions from teams, unless they’re absolutely necessary. The FA themselves confirmed that two significant factors had been in the fronts of their minds when the decision was taken. Firstly, the club admitted their guilt (this seems to be a new phenomenon in two ways – both in terms of clubs actually admitting guilt for once, and the FA taking the decision into account). Secondly, they are under different management now to that which they were under when the signings took place. This also strikes me as a somewhat curious statement. If a player headbutts another player and receives a six month ban, is the ban lifted should the manager leave and be replaced by someone else?
My feelings on the decision are largely ambivalent. There is no question of West Ham’s guilt over this matter, and their admission of guilt seems to have allowed everybody concerned to gloss over the fact that it was allowed to happen in the first place. If Tevez keeps them up (and he’s been starting to look like the player that he was hyped as being over the last few weeks), the supporters of their relegation rivals have a good case to be disgruntled. Having said that, though, there is something fundamentally unsettling about issues on the pitch being decided in front of a committee. The FA, you could argue, have made a pragmatic decision here. All over Europe, clubs are starting to flex their muscles with threats of legal action, and football associations everywhere are very aware of the fact that their decisions have very little or no legal basis. This fine has postponed an angry club taking the matter all the way to the high courts. For now.