The spectre of a three-point penalty deduction arose over the reigning Premiership champions Chelsea yesterday when they were once again accused of making illegal approaches in the transfer market, this time by their irascible former chairman Ken Bates.
Bates, the current owner of Leeds United, who presided over Stamford Bridge for 22 years before selling the club for a £17m profit to Roman Abramovich in 2003, claimed that his former club had tapped up two academy youngsters from the Elland Road club and that he would lodge formal complaints with the Football Association, Uefa and Fifa in an attempt to curtail Chelsea's " continual flouting of the rules".
If found guilty of speaking to the two Leeds youngsters, Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo, without the permission of the Championship club, Chelsea face the serious threat of being docked three points from their attempt to land a hat-trick of Premiership titles this season.
In June last year, the champions were fined £300,000 and given a suspended three-point penalty by the Premier League for making an illegal approach to Arsenal's full-back Ashley Cole. Chelsea were warned at the time that the points deduction would come into effect if they were found to have committed a similar offence during the following season.
Chelsea deny tapping up the two England Under-16 internationals - and a third Leeds youth player, Daniel Rose, who, unlike Woods and Taiwo, elected to remain at Elland Road - but in the 74-year-old Leeds chairman they face a formidable opponent, who has called not only for Chelsea to be docked points, but also to be thrown out of the competition coveted most by Abramovich, the Champions' League. Bates, who paid a reported £10m to take control of Leeds in January last year shortly after ending his tenure in west London, said: "There is no personal vendetta between [Chelsea chairman] Bruce Buck or Abramovich and myself or Leeds or Chelsea. This is a straightforward dispute over the blatant breaching of Football League rules, which is consistent with other examples of Chelsea's illegal approaches to players.
"The most popular one is the Ashley Cole case, one where they [were] fined and had three points [suspended]. As of today, we have reported Chelsea to the FA regarding the alleged tapping-up of three of our players."
Bates said Leeds were taking separate legal action against former academy staff member Gary Worthington for his alleged part in the youngsters' defection. Worthington spent five years at Elland Road before leaving last year to take up a similar post with Chelsea.
Bates said: "We have considerable and great weight of evidence to demonstrate without a shadow of doubt that Chelsea behaved consistently aggressively in stealing these two players from Leeds United.
"It is not a question of punishing Chelsea for this latest breach. It is a question of stopping them doing it in the future. Because of the financial strength of the owner, financial punishments alone will make no difference to them at all. If you belong to a league, there are rules. By continuing in that competition, there is implicit acceptance to play by those rules. If you don't wish to play by those rules and refuse consistently to do so, why should you be allowed to play?
"We think, therefore, not only a financial punishment should be imposed but other punishments such as deduction of points, banning of registration of new players or suspension from European competitions would be more appropriate."
Bates believes that the recent complaint by Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, that the likes of Chelsea and their vast resources were damaging football indicates a commitment among the football authorities to clamp down on illegal transfer activity.
Bates added: "In recent weeks we've had Blatter complaining about Chelsea helping to destroy European football, the importance of youth football and urging even greater investment in youth.
"We've had Trevor Brooking reiterating the same thing - that more money should be spent on scholars and academies to produce English kids across the country in the hope that we can have a better show in the World Cup. But what's the point of doing that when big clubs just ignore the rules and do what they like with impunity? Where is the encouragement or even the justification to the other 91 clubs in England of having academies, schools of excellence or youth teams?"
The FA last night confirmed it had not yet received an official complaint from Leeds. "We have had communication from Leeds, but as yet no formal complaint," said a spokesman. "If this was received, we'd give it due consideration."
However, Leeds' chief executive, Shaun Harvey, said: "The complaints have literally just been lodged, so the FA will have time to consider them and find the appropriate mechanism for dealing with the complaint we've raised. We're in their hands now. It's for them to decide how to go forward."
Chelsea insist they will not comment on the move by Bates to report them. The Blues have always denied breaking any rules by signing Woods and Taiwo.Reuse content