In an extraordinary twist on the Carlos Tevez saga, Fulham have submitted a claim for £700,000 in compensation from West Ham United because they finished below the Hammers in the season that the Argentine striker played at Upton Park. The claim appears to confirm the fear of "legal anarchy" that West Ham warned about.
The cash relates to the loss of so-called "merit money" that Fulham believe they missed out on because the 2006-07 campaign ended with them in 16th place, two points behind 15th-placed West Ham. They claim that, because of Tevez, they finished in a false position.
Fulham received £20.26m in merit money – the cash divided between the clubs from the television and broadcast deals brokered by the Premier League – with West Ham receiving £20.71m. The difference amounts to £450,000 – the extra cash they would have received in 2007 – but, confusingly, Fulham are understood to have submitted a claim for £700,000 which is the amount they would be due if the places were reversed this season.
The action was launched on Tuesday, the day after West Ham, who will fight it and have reacted with incredulity to the claim, announced they had reached an out-of-court settlement with Sheffield United of £20m, spread over the next five seasons, to end the Blades' long-running dispute over Tevez.
The settlement followed the arbitration judgment by the independent tribunal, chaired by Lord Griffiths, which decided that Tevez, whose signing had breached rules on third-party ownership, had had a decisive effect on the Blades being relegated and West Ham surviving that season.
West Ham, who had already been fined £5.5m by the Premier League and torn up Tevez's original contract, had rejected the claim and were furious they had no right to appeal or recourse to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. They decided to settle because they did not want to go before Griffiths again and could not afford a hefty lump sum payment given the financial plight of owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.
In a statement on Tuesday, in the wake of the attempts by players, former Blades' manager Neil Warnock and Leeds United chairman Ken Bates to claim compensation, West Ham said they would "strongly resist any attempts to prolong this matter through the courts, both to protect our interests and those of the wider game".
Fulham have now lodged a formal legal claim but Wigan Athletic, who finished 17th that season, three points behind West Ham, made clear yesterday that, contrary to reports, they have not sought any further legal advice and do not intend to seek compensation for a "false league position".
The crucial piece of the ruling that Fulham have seized on is Griffiths' panel's judgment that they had "no doubt" that West Ham would have acquired "at least three fewer points" without Tevez. The panel claimed that in the last two games of that season Tevez "more likely than not" helped West Ham to achieve the three extra points that ensured they avoided relegation at the expense of the Blades.
For example, could West Ham now sue the authorities for appointing referee Stuart Attwell who then sent off Carlton Cole, harshly, in the recent match away to Wigan? It meant the striker missed last Monday's match against West Brom, which ended in a goalless draw with West Ham dropping two points, affecting their chances of qualifying for Europe?
The ramifications may be endless. In another example, of course, Sheffield United may themselves be affected should Barnsley be relegated and link their demotion from the Championship to the elbow thrown by Chris Morgan into the face of the Barnsley striker – and record signing – Iain Hume which left him with a fractured skull and unable to play for the rest of the season.
If Fulham pursue their claim it may also require the establishment of yet another arbitration hearing as the case involving Sheffield United was a private arbitration.
The Premier League and Football Association are already carrying out a fresh inquiry into the Tevez affair but are not expected to mete out any further punishment.
As for the claims being pursued by Warnock, who is waiting for legal advice from the League Managers Association, and the players, West Ham are confident that they can successfully defend any action. Bates, who believes Leeds are entitled to windfall payments through three players he sold to the Sheffield club that season, is likely to pursue the Blades for the £500,000 in compensation he wants.Reuse content