Middlesbrough abandon fight

Football
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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough yesterday gave up the fight for Premiership football next season and spelled out the cost to the club of the three points deducted for not turning up to play Blackburn Rovers in December.

Steve Gibson, the Middlesbrough chairman, has accepted the penalty, which also included a pounds 50,000 fine, imposed by the Premier League, but has been left with "a grave sense of injustice" and a projected revenue loss of pounds 7.5m.

Gibson, defiant to the end, accused the League of being "incompetent and negligent" and has called again for an independent inquiry into actions of Premiership officials.

In a 10-page letter sent to Peter Leaver, the Premiership chief executive , Gibson wrote: "Given the legal strength of your case I have no alternative other than to accept the penalties imposed upon my club.This resulted in the playing performance of the club being artificially placed in 19th position against the true merit position of 14th in the Premier League. The consequences have been a loss in the ladder system payment of pounds 528,575 and relegation to the First Division with a forecast revenue loss of pounds 7,500,000.

"I am still left with a grave sense of injustice as I am unable to reach any other conclusion than that this incident was most certainly avoidable and that it was not avoided is due largely to the action of the officials of the Premier League both on the day and subsequent to it."

He concluded that "the attempts of my club to be heard and to receive a balanced and fair hearing have been met with a mixture of arrogance, complacency, incompetence, negligence and self interest.

"The extent of the penalties imposed defy natural justice and my football club can no longer be forgiving."

The Premier League, who had feared a costly legal challenge, said in a statement: "The issue of Middlesbrough's points deduction and relegation is now closed."

Simon Bolton, the secretary of Middlesbrough Supporters Club, supported Gibson's decision not to continue the struggle for the three points. "It's obviously disappointing but I'm certain the only reason they are not doing it is because they just don't think they are going to get them back," he said. "Let's get on with it and get back up at the first attempt. We should shove it up them and tell them we didn't need our three points back - we got up anyway."

Plymouth Argyle and Chesterfield have felt the weight of the FA's displeasure at their match in February in which five players were sent off. A brawl sparked by a foul on the Plymouth goalkeeper, Bruce Grobbelaar, led to four of the red cards. Plymouth were fined pounds 30,000, with pounds 22,500 suspended until June next year, while Chesterfield were ordered to pay pounds 20,000, with pounds 15,000 suspended.

The 28-year-old Italian international goalkeeper Luca Bucci is expected to join Rangers next week in a pounds 1.5m move from Parma.

West Bromwich Albion have completed the pounds 1.25m club-record signing of the winger Kevin Kilbane from Preston. Manchester City have secured the Ipswich defender Tony Vaughan, whose fee will be fixed by a tribunal.

Ian Rush's time at Leeds United looks to be over, a year after his free transfer from Liverpool. The 35-year-old striker has been told by his manager, George Graham, that there is no guarantee of first-team football next season, following the arrival of the pounds 2m Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Guy Whittingham, the 32-year-old Sheffield Wednesday midfielder, has signed a new two-year contract.

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