Thursday, July 19, 2007

Excellent Debate on Sheffield United’s ‘Appeal’

An excellent open debate was held yesterday evening by the British Association for Sport and Law, entitled ‘From registration to relegation…the twists and turns of the Premier League, West Ham, Sheffield United saga’. A number of interesting points were raised.

It was agreed that West Ham’s main offence was the breach of its ‘good faith’ requirement under FA Premier League rule B13, as it had not told the League the truth. It was suggested that West Ham’s arrangements to bring Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to the club were not very different from loan agreements, which could be judged to be in breach of FA Premier League rule U18, which prevents clubs singing contracts which enable another party to ‘materially influence’ the policy or performance of teams.

It was pointed out that in loan agreements, it is often the case that clubs agree that a player should not take part in Cup games and that in the case of player transfers, it has been known that the selling club has agreed to pay a player’s wages for a period even after they have been sold. This could be judged to be materially influencing the performance of the team.

Another good point raised was that given that the Arbitration Panel judgment appeared to agree that Scott Duxbury and Paul Aldridge had acted improperly, why had action not been taken against them? In response, a possible reason was that this action may have had little chance of success due to a lack of reliable evidence.

One panellist raised a thorny issue, arguing that the case highlights that sport is not fit to govern itself, as we know little about the people involved in bringing star players to our clubs, or, indeed, buying them clubs. It was suggested that the Premier League should re-examine sports governance in the US. Thankfully, the European Commission’s attempt to set out sport’s ability to self-govern in its White Paper on Sport was not brought up, although cases such as this cannot help sport’s case for autonomy of governance.

 Andy Brown


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