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TanyaT 9th January 2009 11:29

How will Sheffield United benefit from further West Ham punishment?
How will Sheffield United benefit from further West Ham punishment?
By Henry Winter
Telegraph 09 Jan 2009

This is getting stupid. When it comes to the Football Association and Premier League punishing West Ham for breaking rules on the third party ownership of Carlos Tevez, the horse has not only bolted, he is halfway across the country and wearing a different livery.

The authorities' pursuit of West Ham is now pointless, because no points can be deducted. Tevez has moved on. The 2006-07 season cannot be re-staged (although it would make a blockbuster film with a cast of extraordinary characters). All that remains is for West Ham to pay compensation to the real victims, Sheffield United, who were relegated because of Tevez's thoroughbred performances in claret and blue over the final furlongs of that contentious race.

So Thursday's announcement of a joint investigation by the FA and the Premier League into West Ham is, in Baldrick's parlance, a dead herring. It's all about procedure but not all good governance makes good sense. The only paperwork truly required is that compensation cheque sent to Bramall Lane.

Everyone knows West Ham broke the rules to help them stay up but the Premier League squandered the opportunity to discipline them properly when imposing only a financial sanction on April 27, 2007, not the points deduction that most sanguine football watchers expected.

Justice was belatedly done for Sheffield United when an independent tribunal chaired by Lord Griffiths ruled in their favour last year. (This observer gave evidence for Sheffield United on the importance of Tevez in the relegation scrap following a match report in the Daily Telegraph headlined "Talent of Tevez lifts West Ham to safety'').

After hearing evidence from many witnesses, Griffiths concluded that "we have no doubt that [Tevez's] services were worth at least three points to West Ham over the season and were what made the difference between West Ham remaining in the Premiership and being relegated ''.

It should have been all over bar the negotiating over the level of compensation. Unfortunately, the authorities now insist they are duty-bound to interview all the old witnesses because Griffiths indicated there had been an unwritten continuation of the third party agreement between West Ham and Tevez's representative, Kia Joorabchian, after the original Premier League sanction of April 27, 2007.

Griffiths' tribunal were clearly concerned about discussions between West Ham's chief executive, Scott Duxbury, and Joorabchian's solicitor, Graham Shear. The absence of phone records means the new investigation appears destined for a cul de sac, a desperate waste of time and money.

This investigation helps no one. West Ham will be further paralysed by uncertainty, making the club less appealing to would-be purchasers. The inquiry certainly will not assist the West Ham manager, Gianfranco Zola, one of football's good guys who may come under more pressure to offload players. And will it really delight Sheffield United? Their chances of receiving proper recompense may be compromised if Upton Park is engulfed by financial turmoil.

West Ham should be left to focus on reaching a settlement with Sheffield United and then all parties, even the third one, can get back to football. West Ham can concentrate on staying up, while Sheffield United can try to get back up.

The Premier League and FA might be better off channelling their energies into examining what kind of character English football really wants in its midst.

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