Football: Tottenham win six-point victory: Sugar is sweet and sour over FA verdict

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The Independent Online
ALAN SUGAR yesterday won for his club a fighting chance of survival in the Premiership next season - but at a cost. The 12 points deducted from Spurs' total next season as part punishment for irregular payments to players was halved on appeal to six points but the fine increased by pounds 900,000 to pounds 1.5m.

The FA appeals board, which convened its meeting in a St Albans hotel that prides itself on only ever having provided accommodation for Wembley winners, confirmed, however, the decision of the commission of inquiry to suspend Spurs from next season's FA Cup and find against the club for costs.

Glen Kirton, an FA spokesman, said that there was no further appeal under FA rules.

Although the Spurs chairman declared that 'we're very disappointed with the result,' privately he must have been hugely relieved at the penalty points reduction which he considered would 'secure us virtually in the Premiership'. In fact, a six-point penalty last season would have seen the club relegated.

In its statement, the appeals board, which consisted of Bert Millichip, the FA chairman, Chris Wilcox, the vice chairman and Geoff Thompson, the chairman of the disciplinary commission, said that one matter - the 12- point penalty - weighed 'very heavily' on their mind. Among Sugar's various pleas for leniency during the four-hour hearing, conceding that it would have 'a devastating effect on present people at the club and its supporters'.

It is estimated that relegation would cost the club up to pounds 10m over two years and the appeals board clearly appreciated that the handicap was tantamount to relegation. It may also have considered that it was an unfair deterrent in atracting new players to the club. None the less, there is bound to be an outcry from some quarters that the FA has relented.

The statement continued: 'However, the appeals board considered the charges which were admitted to be very serious matters. These breaches of rules were evidence of a practice adopted at the club for many years which resulted in an advantage to the club over others who had complied with the rules.' Tottenham originally admitted to 34 charges of irregular payments to players.

Sugar expressed his disappointment that the club would still not be allowed to compete in the FA Cup. 'It's still very unfair for our fans,' he said, 'especially as we are known to be a cup club.

'I find it quite shocking really. If any other Premier League club has got anything else to disclose to the authorities it's going to be a very brave man that comes forward now.'

Would he have done so had he known the consequences. Sugar replied: 'Absolutely. Its my policy. Somewhere down the line it's got to pay off one day - I don't know where. The FA have made a template, an example of the type of punishment they are prepared to dish out.'

He confirmed that legal action was underway against former employees, one of whom is understood to be Irving Scholar, a former chairman. 'All that Mr Scholar had to do was write the loans into the contract and we wouldn't be sitting here now,' he said.

Asked how and when he proposed to pay the fine, Sugar replied: 'I wondered whether they wanted it in a brown paper bag.'