West Ham tonight welcomed the opening of proceedings by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) as a significant development in their legal battle against Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair.
The court in Lausanne, Switzerland, confirmed today they have started an arbitration procedure despite opposition from the Blades.
West Ham want CAS to adjudicate on an independent tribunal's decision they should pay compensation to Sheffield United for their relegation from the Premier League in 2006/07.
A Hammers spokesman told PA Sport: "West Ham United welcome today's statement by CAS that they have initiated an arbitration procedure.
"This is the start of the CAS process and we hope that it will be the first step toward a full arbitration hearing in due course.
"West Ham are doing no more than Sheffield United have already done in seeking a right of appeal and we believe that CAS is the appropriate body for this."
CAS said the first step would be to decide whether they had the power to hear the case.
A statement from CAS read: "The CAS has initiated an arbitration procedure and will first examine its jurisdiction as a preliminary issue after both clubs have had the opportunity to file written submissions on this point.
"For the moment, no decision has been made with respect to the holding of a hearing. In any event, a decision on jurisdiction is not to be expected before the end of November 2008."
The independent tribunal, convened under Football Association rules last month, found West Ham won at least three points due to Argentina striker Tevez - whose registration with the London club was ruled to have breached Premier League rules on third-party ownership in April 2007.
The tribunal ruled Sheffield United were due compensation, which has yet to be determined but they are claiming £50million.
FA regulations which brought about the arbitration hearing also state no appeal is permitted to a court of law.
But in their legal submission to CAS, West Ham have argued that English football's governing body would be in breach of FIFA statutes if they did not allow for an appeal to the Swiss-based court.
In their argument against an appeal, the Blades have pointed to the dispute between Ashley Cole and the Premier League in 2005 - where CAS said they did not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the player over his £75,000 fine imposed by the league for holding unauthorised talks with Chelsea while he was still at Arsenal.