Football: Spurs to fight on over FA verdict: Dispute to be settled outside courts

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM Hotspur's attempt to overturn their six- point deduction, pounds 1.5m fine and ban from this year's FA Cup is to go to arbitration. The Football Association announced last night that it had agreed with the club to settle the matter by arbitration rather than by going to the courts.

Penalties were imposed on Tottenham in June after an inquiry into irregular payments to players. Tottenham admitted 39 charges concerning irregular payments to players between 1984 and 1989, two years before Alan Sugar, the present chairman, took charge of the club.

The original punishment - a 12-point deduction, pounds 600,000 fine and FA Cup ban - was adjusted in early July on appeal, but now Sugar is claiming that both FA commissions 'acted outside their powers'.

The decision to go to arbitration is in line with the policy of Fifa, the game's international governing body, which insists that disputes should not be taken to court. Earlier this week Fifa ordered three Welsh clubs, Newport AFC, Caernarfon Town and Colwyn Bay, to settle their dispute with the Football Association of Wales through arbitration.

The FA said in a statement last night: 'Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Co Limited has brought a legal challenge against the penalties imposed by the Football Association, claiming that both the FA Commission and Appeals Board acted outside their powers.

'The club's claims, which are denied by the Football Association, are to be determined by arbitration as opposed to the courts. Neither the club nor the Football Association will make any comment in relation to the matters in issue as long as arbitration is pending.'

The decision will spare football the embarrassment of the dispute being aired in public and gives Sugar a second opportunity to appeal against the decision. At the time of the verdict, the Tottenham manager, Ossie Ardiles, advised his board of directors to 'fight it, fight it and fight it again'.

The FA had apparently ruled out the possibility of arbitration after the appeal hearing, but is understood to have changed its stance in preference to incurring the wrath of Fifa by taking up the challenge of court action.

No announcement has been made about the composition of the arbitration panel, but it is believed that it will consist of lawyers rather than representatives of the football establishment. Although the dispute is not going to the courts, it seems that it will be settled on the basis of legal arguments.

The date of any hearing has also to be fixed, but the issue is likely to be resolved by mid- November. The six-point deduction from Tottenham's Premiership points total is not due to be made until the end of the season, but it will be important to all parties to resolve the matter before the draw for the third round of the FA Cup in early December.

Dundee's chairman, Ron Dixon, has been fined pounds 1,000 and warned to be careful about his public comments after appearing in front of the Scottish Football Association. The general purposes committee investigated comments by Dixon last April when he suggested that the SFA as a body was not moving with the times.