Is it poetic justice time for West Ham?
West Ham were fined £5.5m for not following Premier League rules in registering Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano when the two arrived at Upton Park in . However they were not docked points, which has been the usual method of punishment for non-compliance with the rules, which the football world therefore found unusual. Rumours surfaced the Hammers made a deal with the Premier League to evade losing points, which would have potentially put West Ham into further relegation depth as to virtually seal their drop before the home game against Bolton. The verdict has caused irritation and dismay at Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, Fulham and Charlton, and the four clubs have had talks with legal advisers and themselves in consideration of a legal challenge to the decision.
Briefly, the decision stems on the evidence which implicated the former West Ham chairman Terence Brown and managing director Paul Aldridge, who negotiated the transfers, acted improperly and withheld vital documentation concerning ownership of the players. The Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore was lied to by Aldridge in regard to the existence of the documents, the full details of which were eventually submitted to the Premier League in January when the Premier League considered an investigation into the deals. West Ham entered a guilty plea before a 3-man independent panel, consideration was taken of the plea and that the dealings would not have occurred under the current ownership of Eggert Magnusson. Thus West Ham were only fined a record fee to potentially compensate for avoiding docked points.
With Mascherano taken in by Liverpool on a 18-month loan, the question arose further of Tevez's ownership. West Ham have proven to the Premier League that Tevez is under their ownership and not that of a third party, though this is still to the dissatisfaction of the four clubs mentioned. Nonetheless Tevez was stated eligible to play for West Ham straight after the verdict and was influential in their away win at Wigan, ironically, by three goals to nil, as well as at home to Bolton the following match. With the last match to played tomorrow for all EPL clubs, Sheffield United are at home against Wigan, Manchester United host West Ham, Charlton and Fulham have had their fates sealed. Crucially if Sheffield United win, Wigan are relegated. If Wigan win, the goals difference would determine which of the three will go.
Sir Alex Ferguson said after the Chelsea game on Wednesday that he will field a strong side against West Ham with no favours but respect to the other teams below, adding that Rafa Benitez was disrespectful to the same teams for fielding a reserve side at Fulham. I found this hypocritical as Sir Alex also mentioned, after rolling down the names of those injured within the Chelsea squad, that he hopes to field his best XI for the FA Cup final. Precisely the point Benitez had in mind before the Fulham game. In saying that, I sense Man Utd will field nothing more than six or seven first teamers tomorrow. West Ham will have the option of sitting defensively for the majority of the game, try to dampen Utd from playing around them for long periods and look to take the game mainly on the counter-attack.
I heard Oliver Holt, sports journalist for The Daily Mirror newspaper, on the radio this morning saying he is looking to West Ham to relegate in reflection to how they evaded the docked points. Though I feel they should have been docked points as Middlesbrough were in 1997 for impropriety, the decision was to not do so in the discretion of the hearing panel and that is that. The point is to be debated with the Premier League who initiated the panel, not West Ham football club. Mr Holt's opinion is not a fair reflection and something niggles at me to suggest there will be a draw at Old Trafford which would secure West Ham's tenure, and a home win at Bramall Lane to condemn Wigan to the Championship.