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Top 5: First XI costs in Premier League

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Sep 24, 2008

Money matters: And justice for all

So, justice has finally been done. At least that's the way Sheffield United must feel after the Football Association's independent arbitration panel ruled in their favour over the protracted Carlos Tevez affair.

The Blades look to be in line for a bumper £30 million compensation payout from West Ham United, who are currently taking legal advice to see if there is any way they can extricate themselves from this costly predicament.

Despite the fact that the arbitration process was conducted according to Football Association rules, which state that neither side is entitled to appeal any decision, the Hammers are hoping that they can take the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

Anyone who hoped on Monday that news of Sheffield United's victory would bring about an end to this already 16-month long process were sadly mistaken. Just when you thought it was over a whole new can of worms looks set to be opened.

Firstly the three-man panel have to decide on a suitable figure for the compensation. Blades are seeking £30m by arguing that that equates to around a Premier League season's worth of lost income. Whether the panel agree is another matter. Secondly, and more complicated, could be a potential appeal from West Ham, which could see the CAS riding roughshod over the FA's diktat.

And that's not all, at first this case seems to be a simple matter of two clubs arguing about money. But the ramifications for football in England could be significant because the panel's ruling has set a dangerous precedent, one which could see more grievances on the pitch being settled in the courts.

Leaving aside whether or not West Ham were in the wrong over Tevez, and also ignoring the wounded pleas from Bramall Lane, it seems now that the English game, which for so long has sneered at its litigious contemporaries overseas, could now have opened the door to protracted legal arguments to get scores, decisions, relegations, promotions overturned if a club feels they have fair grounds.

Sheffield United have not been reinstated to the Premier League - though don't discount that as their next move - but the club have won a crucial fight which has parallels with those arguments and rulings that have taken place so controversially in Italy in recent seasons.

Of course, this should never have been allowed to happen. Had the Premier League docked West Ham three points when they first charged the club over breaching rules over third party ownerships of players the following debacle could have been avoided.

Many have cited Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore as being culpable in this sorry tale, arguing that he and the league failed in their duties to Sheffield United, and other clubs, when they allowed Tevez to keep playing, when they fined the Hammers £5.5 million rather than docking points, and for failing to uncover problems with Tevez's registration until six months after he arrived at Upton Park.

Worse could follow if the legacy of this saga proves to be that at the end of every season all contentious decisions end in the courtroom.


Good news for Manchester City supporters. Not only are the club's new custodians bestowed with more cash than they know what to do with, it appears they also plan to let Mark Hughes get on with his job unhindered by involvement from the boardroom.

Already this season the problem of interference in team matters has seen Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley quit their roles at Newcastle United and West Ham United respectively, and last term it indirectly resulted in Jose Mourinho's departure from Chelsea and looked set to claim Rafa Benitez's scalp as Liverpool's squabbling owners unsettled the Spaniard and his squad.

But in what must be music to the ears of the Eastland faithful Khaldoon al Mubarak, City's new chairman, said: ''Once owners start thinking they know better than the coach it's a recipe for disaster. One thing that I have made very clear to Mark Hughes is that any player he wants will come from him.

''Transfers come from his requirements, his plan for the club. I'm a fan, but I am not an expert. It's Mark who runs the club and Mark who makes the football decisions,' said alMubarak.

''We are here to support and make financial decisions, but we are not here to teach Mark what to do.''

What a relief it is to hear such sage, understated comment from an investor new to the game, whose various arrivals in recent seasons have been followed by outlandish pronouncements of bombast or eerie quiet.

Of course, Manchester City being Manchester City means there are sure to be more twists and turns to follow, but so far, both on and off the field, Sheikh Mansour's £200 million takeover appears to be a success.


Mike Ashley, Newcastle United's one-time saviour and now derided owner, is apparently close to a deal to sell the club to a consortium of Nigerian entrepreneurs for a fee estimated to be in the region of £350-400 million.

It all sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Rather like a spam email purporting to be from an African prince who has chosen you to inherit his fortune.

Last week, when he wasn't losing a reported £300 million betting on the stock market, Ashley was touting the Magpies around the Middle East and was desperate to find a buyer to take the club off his hands after his Toon Army love affair ended in acrimony following Kevin Keegan's exit from St James Park.

While Ashley is clearly no longer the right man for the club, the fear for Newcastle fans must be that there can be no guarantee that Ashley will sell to a group with the club's best interests at heart.

Ashley's twin objectives are to make money and sell quickly, nothing more. Fans must hope that the checks and balances of football's authorities ensure that the club's new owners are serious about revitalising the club and not simply using it for their own financial gain.

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