God. Sometimes, I really struggle to think of things to put on here. On other nights, though, there’s just too much going on. Tonight, my friends, is one of those nights. Whether it’s Leeds decision to go into administration and kill off any remote hopes that they may have had of scoring eight goals at Derby tomorrow, the battle to stay in the Football League (which has taken a further twist with Boston United’s attempt to delay their decision to go into administration until they know whether they’ll be in the League next season or not), or the lunatic rantings of Liverpool’s chief executive Rick Parry after Liverpool’s draw against Chelsea on Tuesday night, it has been a busy, busy week. Top billing, however, goes to the cabal of clubs at the bottom of the Premiership that are now threatening to sue to preserve their places at the trough next season.
So, here’s my considered opinion on the matter. Dave Whelan, a man that bought his team a place in the Premiership, can piss off if he thinks that he is suddenly the voice of justice in English football. The rights and wrongs of what West Ham did are neither here nor there. Whilst I thought that the FA’s punishment might have been slightly soft on West Ham, it was nothing to do with Wigan whatsoever. Following Whelan’s reckoning through to its logical conclusion, Manchester United could sue because Tevez was playing when West Ham beat them in December. Or, to put it another way, more or less anyone could sue anyone for more or less any reason. Wigan have been dreadful this season, and are just above the bottom three entirely on merit. Whelan knows this, and he also knows how competitive the Championship has been this season. He also knows that being relegated this season will mean that his club will also miss out on an ultra-lucrative overseas rights package. I don’t hear any squealing on the subject from teams higher up the Premiership table – the clubs at the bottom might be better advised to pick up more points, rather than relying on a two bit legal challenge. This is the same Sheffield United that managed to get a match against West Bromwich Albion called off by deliberately getting their team down to six players a few years back. It’s the same Fulham team that has been bankrolled from the Third Division into the Premiership. They’re all members of a cartel that was specifically set up to take TV money away from smaller clubs and hoard it for themselves. Well, sorry chaps. This time the dice were rolled and you lost.
I’ve been saying all season that football is headed towards dangerously litigious times. The G14, the Premiership, the whole damn of them, are sizing up completely undermining the authority of the people that run the game. They won round one, the Bosman case, and they’re fighting the RC Charleroi case as we speak. They want to protect their investments through making the game as uncompetitive as possible. The multi-millionaires now eyeing up the Premiership aren’t doing this as a hobby. They’d very much like the issues of promotion and relegation to be closed altogether or decided in a court where they can make spurious “restraint of trade” claims that fly in the face of everything that we love about the game. Trust me on this. This is the thin end of the wedge. You may not like West Ham, and you may not agree with the FA’s decision on the Mascherano/Tevez affair and you may even think that the FA through their weight around in an often incoherent and arbitrary manner, but they are the nearest that we have to a safeguard against the madder instincts of the Wild West Capitalists (and I’m not just referring to the Americans here – there have been enough cowboys inhabiting the upper echelons of English football over the last fifteen years or so), and the precedent that could be set here is a very dangerous one.