Fulham bid to remove Premier League chairman Sir David Richards put on hold

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The Independent Football

Fulham today took their fight to oust Sir David Richards as Premier League chairman to the Court of Appeal after challenging a High Court judgment for their dispute with him to be settled by arbitration.

Mr Justice Vos this morning granted Richards and the Premier League a stay on the legal action taken against them by the Cottagers, who want the former removed for allegedly scuppering their bid to sign Peter Crouch in July 2009.

But the judge also gave Fulham leave to appeal the verdict, which they confirmed this afternoon they had done in a statement released to Press Association Sport.

It read: "The High Court today ruled that Fulham could not proceed by way of court action in respect of the matters complained of by Fulham in its Unfair Prejudice Petition, issued in April this year, against Sir David Richards and the Premier League.

"Although it ruled that Fulham must pursue its complaints by way of private arbitration under the Premier League and Football Association rules, the High Court also gave Fulham permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, recognising that there was a previous High Court decision in another case that came to a different conclusion on similar issues, and that an important point of law was involved.

"Fulham intends to take its case to the Court of Appeal so that this important issue can be resolved in its favour."

In earlier granting Richards and the Premier League a stay, Mr Justice Vos said in his judgment: "The arbitrators will have adequate powers to deal with Fulham's complaint properly, fairly and satisfactorily, and it would be extremely desirable for all concerned if they were permitted to do so without further delay."

Richards' removal is one of two possible outcomes sought by Fulham, the other being a ban on his involvement in future transfers.

They would technically be able to achieve either of those aims in independent arbitration proceedings but failure to convince the courts to hear their case would still be viewed as something of a setback.

The decision of any arbitration process is binding, although the club could still attempt to take the matter further if the verdict did not go their way.

Fulham are claiming that Richards interfered with their bid to buy England striker Crouch, who ended up joining Tottenham for £9million, £2million less than they were reportedly willing to pay.

Richards allegedly intervened because Spurs were prepared to offer Portsmouth a lump sum up front at a time when the south-coast club's very existence was under threat, while Fulham were thought to be planning to pay in instalments.

The Cottagers believe Richards broke both Football Association and Premier League rules and failed to act fairly by promoting the interests of one club over another.

Though he accepts he did speak with Portsmouth's then chief executive Peter Storrie - a personal friend - Richards denies he sought to assist Tottenham.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Premier League inquiry but Fulham felt otherwise and called in the lawyers, an unprecedented step from a shareholder club against an organisation's chairman.

If Richards is ousted, it would send shockwaves through the English game.

The former Sheffield Wednesday supremo has been Premier League chairman for 11 years and is also vice-chairman of the FA, chairman of Club England and is on the FA's international committee.

Meanwhile, Cottagers defender Philippe Senderos is on course to make his debut next month after stepping up his recovery from Achilles surgery.

Summer signing Senderos was ruled out for six months after rupturing the tendon while on international duty with Switzerland, days before the Barclays Premier League season began.

The 25-year-old told the club's official website, www.fulhamfc.com: "The cast is off now, and I'm walking without crutches again which feels great.

"The rehabilitation is going well and I'm on schedule, which is pleasing.

"I know I will be back, and stronger than ever."