FA penalty hits Spurs for millions

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR last night received the heaviest punishment handed out by the Football Association. They were deducted 12 points from next season's Premiership total, banned from the FA Cup for the same season, and fined pounds 600,000 as well as being ordered to pay the costs of yesterday's commission of inquiry into the club's admitted financial irregularities.

Spurs may have escaped relegation, their worst fear, but that may yet follow at the end of a season in which four clubs will be relegated because of the advent of a new 20-club Premiership. Spurs escaped relegation to the Football League's First Division by four points in the season just ended.

It is difficult to calculate the total cost of yesterday's verdict but it is likely to run into several million pounds depending on possible relegation and how far the club might otherwise have travelled in the lucrative FA Cup competition.

The previous record fine, in hard cash terms, was pounds 105,000 imposed three years ago on Chelsea, also for irregular payments to players. Twenty out of yesterday's 40 charges related to a breach of transfer regulations, notably those in the case of three players, Mitchell Thomas, Chris Fairclough and Paul Allen, who received money before their fees were fixed by a tribunal. A player's income is taken into account when assessing the size of transfer fees and the tribunals in question were not made aware of these advance payments.

Some will argue that the penalty is, in effect, worse than that suffered by Swindon Town, who were relegated four years ago for similar offences but incurred no fine. Presumably, the five-man FA commission, which spent six and a quarter hours listening to Spurs plead their case at the Wembley Conference Centre, stopped short of the ultimate sanction because Spurs, unlike Swindon, had not been guilty of criminal fraud.

Alan Sugar, the computer tycoon who assumed control of Spurs four years ago in partnership with Terry Venables, the present England coach, sped away without commenting after the hearing in his blue metallic Rolls Royce - a Silver Spur II.