Football: FA 'must discipline eight'

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THE Wimbledon chairman, Sam Hammam, yesterday accused eight Premier League clubs of acting as a cartel and suggested they should be charged by the Football Association with ungentlemanly conduct.

Hammam was angered by the blocking on Monday of a pounds 13m Bass sponsorship package by the eight - Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and QPR.

They hold the balance of power and are all involved in a separate pounds 3m deal with the ground perimeter advertising company, Dorna.

'They voted in a block to scupper a deal with Bass and then went into another meeting,' Hammam said. 'Is this ungentlemanly behaviour? There is serious talk of disciplinary action. If they were found guilty by the FA then two or three could be automatically relegated and some have points deducted.

'It's for the FA to decide. Are they going to make a stand? Graham Kelly (the FA chief executive) and Sir Bert Millichip (the chairman) have to show what the FA is about. They have no alternative but to step in and act.'

There have been allegations that some of the eight clubs were offered inducements to join the cartel. Hammam reminded the FA that Swindon were demoted for making illegal payments to players.

Manchester City's chairman, Peter Swales, said: 'What concerns me is that a group of clubs have clandestine meetings . . . It's a dangerous precedent which could lead to a league within a league. They fought pretty dirty.'

Rick Parry, the Premier League chief executive, met representatives from six clubs for talks yesterday in an attempt to heal the rift. 'We left with an idea that is workable. Whether it is deliverable is different,' he said.