Football: Tottenham face fight to keep Premiership place

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR today face a range of punishments unprecedented in the English game, not the least of which is the ultimate sanction of relegation, possibly as many as two divisions, should the charge against them of malpractice on 46 counts be proved by the Football Association's commission of inquiry.

Even if Spurs retain membership of the Premiership, they could be fined as much as a seven- figure sum - the record is pounds 75,000 against Chelsea for crowd disorder - or have points deducted from their total next season. The commission's power is far-reaching and it could impose a combination of these penalties. It is estimated that relegation would cost Spurs at least pounds 3m.

The most serious 10 charges relate to alleged breaches of transfer regulations between 1985 and 1989, most notably those concerning the purchase of Paul Allen, Chris Fairclough and Mitchell Thomas.

It is alleged that Fairclough and Thomas each received a 'loan' which it was never the intention they should repay and that when Allen joined the club he received an ex gratia payment of pounds 55,000 before any of their fees had been fixed by a tribunal. A tribunal takes into account a player's income when assessing the size of a transfer fee. Since these 'loans' were not disclosed, the selling clubs could claim the fees should have been higher and they were defrauded.

There are similarities between Spurs' situation and that of Swindon Town four years ago, when the Wiltshire club was denied promotion it won through the play- offs after being found guilty of making irregular payments to players, totalling pounds 110,000 compared to pounds 545,000 in the case of Spurs. Swindon were then managed by the present incumbent at Spurs, Ossie Ardiles.

However, there are also differences between the cases, which the Spurs delegation will stress in a 1,000-page presentation to the commission. For instance, in Swindon's case the law was broken resulting in criminal investigation which led to convictions. Spurs will point out that their payments were declared to the Inland Revenue.

Also, Spurs will emphasise that, unlike Swindon, they have admitted certain irregularities which they themselves brought to the attention of the FA Premier League. And finally, also unlike Swindon, where the guilty men were still in office, Spurs will claim the alleged offences were committed under another regime.

The case is likely to drag on beyond today and possibly as far as the courts, should the FA find against Spurs. 'Anyone who tells you it's simple is simple,' said an FA source. 'People say it's edging towards a fine and a deduction of points, but there may be other punishments in the wind, too.'

As Andy Walker agreed to return to Celtic from Bolton, the Glasgow club expressed an interest in Tottenham's Colin Calderwood. Celtic's manager, Lou Macari, who once signed the defender for Swindon, had talks yesterday with Calderwood, who cost Spurs pounds 1.25m last summer. Packie Bonner, the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper who was released by Celtic on a free transfer, has opted to join Kilmarnock in preference to Dundee United or Motherwell.

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