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Nov 26, 2008

West Ham's unappealing appeal

Just when it looked like things couldn't get any more complicated, convoluted, or indeed tiresome, it has - never underestimate the power of the courts or the desperation of the embattled.

West Ham United are now appealing the High Court's decision that it can't go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to appeal a decision which could see them forced to pay Sheffield United as much as £50 million.

Initial reports on Wednesday suggested the battle was at an end and that the row over Carlos Tevez had been won, again, by the Blades. Sadly for all concerned those reports proved premature.

The South Yorkshire club only won a temporary order to prevent West Ham taking its case to CAS, which means both clubs will have to present themselves at the High Court next year for a full trial in order to arrive at a permanent order blocking an appeal to CAS.

In the meantime West Ham are appealing the temporary injunction in a bid to slow Sheffield United's attempts to get their compensation.

Even if the ruling in the full trial goes against West Ham they'll probably appeal that. And if they don't get a positive ruling in that, they might appeal against the appeal for the right to appeal (!).

Oh, and then there is the possibility that CAS might choose not to consider a West Ham appeal on the grounds that it falls outside of their jurisdiction.

Even if West Ham ever actually accept defeat, then will come the argument about how the level of compensation is calculated.

The Blades are expected to claim at least £30 million in lost earnings following their relegation from the Premier League, but this will be assessed at a future arbitration hearing.

While it will be fairly straightforward to calculate revenues lost from largely fixed income streams like television rights, in areas like sponsorship deals that weren't done and tickets to games that never existed, the calculations will be open to conjecture and will provide West Ham with acres of grey area in which to argue.

And it could get worse for West Ham. If they do end up having to pay compensation to Sheffield United the club then could be forced to compensate the Blades players, many of whom are angry that relegation cost them financially.

This isn't just a point of principle for West Ham, the simple truth is that the club just don't have the money to pay up.

The club's owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson has already been badly hit by the economic crisis in Iceland and there is speculation that he will be forced to sell the club.

The problem is that in the current economic climate there are few benevolent souls ready to spend big on struggling football clubs who may or may not be liable to a £50 million payout sometime in the near future.

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