TREVOR HAYLETT and GLENN MOORE
Ilie Dumitrescu was left in a footballing no man's land yesterday when the Department of Employment rejected his application for a work permit which would have enabled him to start a new career with West Ham. It could even mean the Romanian international has to leave the country.
West Ham, who had agreed to pay Tottenham pounds 1.5m for the World Cup striker, were stunned by the decision and immediately lodged an appeal. Everton, whose prospective new signing from Newcastle, Marc Hottiger, has also been denied a permit, will follow suit.
Dumitrescu's failure to win a regular place with Spurs was behind the DoE's refusal to grant him a new permit. Regulations insist that foreign players must appear in approximately 75 per cent of first-team games to qualify. The department sought advice from the Association, the Premier League and the League as well as the players union, the Professional ers' Association. The union has been concerned about the proliferation of overseas players, but yesterday its chief executive, Gordon Taylor, was unavailable for comment on Dumitrescu's case.
The Romanian's fight is not just a footballing matter, he now faces a struggle to keep his family in Britain. "He is in this country as a worker without a work permit, and without that the ultimate fear is that he would have to leave," said the West Ham secretary, Richard Skirrow.
Dumitrescu, who joined Spurs for pounds 2.6m 19 months ago having just starred in the 1994 World Cup, said his record of 20 goals in 52 international appearances "speaks for itself". However, since Osvaldo Ardiles was replaced at Spurs by Gerry Francis, he has started just five first-team games, and spent six months on loan with Seville.
"I will have to go home if the permit is not granted," Dumitrescu said. "But Spurs will continue to have to pay out my contract which has two and a half years to run If West Ham had bought me from Steaua Bucharest there would not be a problem. I have respect for Gordon Taylor, but he should understand my situation. The FA and Premier League understand it. The PFA do not."
West Ham's appeal will be on the grounds that their application should be regarded as a new one rather than a renewal. "He should be judged on what he is, an international with 52 caps," Peter Storrie, the club's managing director, said. The appeal, which should be heard early next week, will be vigorously supported by Spurs.
The player has been training with the Upton Park club but that is no longer permitted. Nor can he return to Spurs. His work permit there had expired and they had been unsuccessful in their attempts to renew it.
Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, said: "We will continue to fight all the way for Dumi. He has not played enough games for Tottenham yet, but that is how players appear on the transfer market. Tottenham bought Ruel Fox because he was not in Newcastle's side and I sold Don Hutchison to Sheffield United because he was not in my team. That's the way it works.
Employment officials issue work permits only to "current internationals of the highest standard". A spokesman, who denied there was a clampdown on foreigners following the Bosman judgement, said: "Once a permit is granted players are expected to make a significant contribution to the development of the game in this country by playing in approximately 75 per cent of first-team games. If they don't a further permit is likely to be refused."
When a player switches club he has to renew his permit, as in every profession when a foreign worker changes jobs. However, the spokesman warned: "It is not the intention of the scheme to enable players who have not met the required standards to chop and change clubs, possibly for progressively lower fees, until they find someone who will actually play them."Reuse content