Tottenham's treatment spurs Swindon into action

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The Independent Online
The Football Association finally closed its book on the prolonged Tottenham Hotspur affair yesterday, when a new commission confirmed the club's restoration to this season's FA Cup competition and the reinstatement of the six points they were ori ginallydeducted for financial irregularities.

However, that rubber-stamp decision has only opened the way for a new protest from Swindon Town, who have demanded an urgent meeting with the authority's chief executive, Graham Kelly.

The first division club are angry that Spurs were able to take their fight to a second appeal before an independent arbitration panel, which last week ruled the FA's punishment to be unreasonable and "misconceived".

Swindon's case is that in 1990, when they were penalised for similar offences, that route of appeal was not available to them. Now they are ready to sue for compensation which could total millions of pounds. The Swindon secretary, John Pollard, said yes t erday: "We have faxed the FA demanding an urgent meeting, and our lawyers are investigating to see what we can do. We have nothing against Spurs, but we believe that what the FA did to us was wrong."

Four years ago, having just achieved promotion to the First Division, Swindon were demoted two divisions by the Football League. This was later reduced to one on appeal to the FA.

While Alan Sugar, the Spurs chairman, can celebrate the recovery of the FA Cup place and the six Premiership points, he nevertheless remains disappointed that the club must still pay a fine of £1.5m, the only penalty to survive the arbitrator's findings .

He believes that it gives no incentive to other clubs to come forward, as they did, to own up to financial wrongdoing. "It won't encourage any kind of clean-up in the game," he said. "It means we will just keep getting these back page bombast revelationsfrom time to time.

"Quite clearly the FA were resentful of the arbitrator's findings. Sometimes on a Saturday we have to be graceful when we lose and shake the hand of our opponents, but I don't get that feeling with them today."

It was with extreme indignation that the game's governing body was forced to accept the recommendations of the three-man panel, although they welcomed the tribunal's confirmation of the FA's power to deduct points and decide who should play in their knockout competition.

Yesterday, they reaffirmed that they would not hesitate to resort to the hard line they handed Spurs, if they consider it appropriate. In fact, Kelly revealed that a £3m fine had been considered when the financial irregularities first came to light.

"In the end, the commission rejected that option, believing such punishment could not be suitable when some clubs are spending far more than that on a single player," Kelly said.

"What was clear then - and what has been confirmed by the arbitrators - is that the FA have the absolute power to deduct points and ban clubs from cup competitions. make no mistake, if the events of the past six months have proved anything, it is that such punishments are the ones clubs care about most passionately. They are the real deterrents, and the FA's resolve to fight financial abuses wherever they are, and in whatever form they take, is now stronger than ever."

Sugar also said he is taking legal advice on whether there is a case for Spurs against a previous regime who were in charge when the offences were committed.

However, the FA spokesman, David Davies, pointed out: "The commission specifically noted that Tottenham had been engaged in a wholesale and systematic abuse of football rules over six years. Secret payments of more than £500,000 had been agreed with 19 players, and these had disadvantaged other clubs. It was not satisfactory to totally blame a previous management when several directors and officers from that period remained in office."

n Cardiff have been warned that they could face closure by the world governing body, Fifa, if they seek a court injunction over their banishment from the Allbright Bitter Welsh Cup. The club was kicked out of the competition after fielding an ineligible player in a third-round replay victory over Ebbw Vale.