Football: Spurs consider appeal and bid pounds 4m for Sutton: Sugar bitter about alleged 'vendetta'

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR yesterday attempted to extricate themselves from the imbroglio created by their FA- sanctioned punishment for financial irregularities. To limit the damage of a substantial fine, one-season FA Cup ban and the deduction of 12 points, Spurs are contemplating legal retaliation over the governing body's action along with the planned pounds 4m recruitment of Chris Sutton, plus two other 'quality players'.

Alan Sugar, the White Hart Lane chairman who spent part of last summer in the High Court dealing with Terry Venables, now Lancaster Gate's most prominent employee, remains convinced that the FA's strong stance represents 'a deliberate vendetta against our club, and not so much against the club, as me personally'.

'This affair is their way of hitting back at me for something I have never done (trying to embarrass the FA over Venables).'

The Amstrad magnate told Sky that he had not made a deal with the FA regarding the appointment as England coach of Venables, dismissed last summer as Spurs chief executive. 'I would not be party to such horse trading with any organisation,' he added.

'I didn't commit the crimes that got the club into trouble. I'm just guilty of navety in reporting them, to what I thought was an authority that would welcome someone trying to clean things up.'

Sugar will announce today whether Spurs are to appeal (although the FA intimated that if any appeal failed, the original punishment would be increased). 'The board is now considering its formal response, and what rights of appeal are available to it,' a Spurs statement to the Stock Exchange read. 'The board will also be taking advice on possible legal action against past employees and directors.'

Such a path could involve Spurs' former chairman Irving Scholar, under whose regime most of the financial irregularities - involving alleged loans to players - occurred. Tottenham's shares dipped quickly when the Exchange opened yesterday, falling from 80p to 67p, but returned to 80p by close of trading.

While Sugar ponders legal remedies, Ossie Ardiles began preparing to campaign against relegation. Reassurance of current players and investment in new ones were the Tottenham manager's twin tactics.

'We have already tabled a pounds 4m bid for (Norwich striker) Chris Sutton and there are seven or eight other top players being closely looked at. I want to buy three quality players in time for the new season. My first task will be to lift the morale of the players, but after that I am sure that they will be as determined as I am to work even harder and overcome this incredible handicap.'

Ardiles added that he felt the punishment meted out by the FA's commission of inquiry was 'totally unjust and worse than being relegated'.

'It was far, far too hard and does not fit the crime. There are three punishments rolled into one. It's simply not right. I am sure that other Premiership clubs will support us if we decide to appeal. A very dangerous precedent has been set and who knows which club might be in the dock next?'

Comparisons with the Swindon Town case were invidious, Ardiles added. The Argentinian, a former law student who was manager at Swindon when they were relegated for financial irregularities in 1990, said: 'At Swindon there was criminal involvement and that is not the case here. It was quite clear that Swindon were trying to cheat other clubs at transfer tribunals - but we have done nothing like that. The differences are huge and for us to be hit in such a way seems completely unjust.'

The odds against Tottenham winning next season's Premiership title yesterday moved from 40-1 to 250-1.

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