Friday, 27 April 2007

Magnussen's Millions Save The Day

The record Premiership fine of £5.5 million ($11 million) handed out to West Ham United over the illegal registrations of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano is fifty per cent of a right and proper punishment. The FA Premier League Disciplinary Panel decided in it's wisdom that the mitigating factors should not result in the Hammers receiving a punishment of points deduction that would have effectively ended their two year hiatus in the top flight. Firstly, let's look at the facts of this case.
West Ham were desperate to complete the signings of the two Argentinians prior to the August transfer deadline and illegally entered into third party contracts involving four offshore companies to ensure that the players arrived from Corinthians in time. The players registrations were owned by a shadowy London-based outfit called Media Sports Investment (MSI) headed by Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian. The word in the gutter is that MSI is a front for the operational manipulations of controversial Israeli agent Pini Zahavi together with Roman Abramovich. Indeed, there were many words in the gutter at the time of the transfers regarding the potential takeover of West Ham by MSI which would, in all likelihood, have led to West Ham merely taking on the form of Chelsea reserves. The MSI takeover fell through and the East Londoners were instead purchased using the profits from Eggert Magnussen's St Petersburg/Leningrad brewing empire.
West Ham United were fined a record amount (eighteen times the amount Chelsea were fined for tapping up Cashley Cole) for both the "obvious and deliberate breach of the rules" and for "dishonesty and deceit" in keeping the contracts from the prying eyes of the Premier League.
So far, all is well and good. But, why are there no points deductions for the Hammers? The disciplinary panel wheel out numerous smokescreens including the change of club ownership in November, the guilty plea and, most peculiarly, the season being at a crucial stage where the impact of points deduction would be greater than if it had been imposed midway through the campaign.
So what? There are several pertinent points here:
1) Javier Mascherano moved to Liverpool on January 31st which is when the irregularities first came to light. To use the fact that the FA Premier League decided to hold the inquiry in late April as a reason for no points deduction is a rather selective argument to put it mildly.
2) The defence of change of ownership also possesses a certain arbitrariness. Paul Aldridge (the former chief executive) was not even called as a witness which is a fairly neat way to filter the truth but Scott Duxbury, who was in charge of legal and commercial affairs at the time of the deal, remains a director of West Ham. Duxbury claims that he was unaware of the rules governing third party influences over players. Change of ownership then but not change in personnel.
3) Rotherham United have been deducted 10 points this season which has resulted in their relegation from England's League One. This formed part of an agreement with creditors without which the Yorkshiremen would have gone out of existence. In Serie A, Siena were similarly targeted with a 1 point penalty for a delay in payment of social security contributions. This penalty may also influence their relegation battle. And Bury were thrown out of the FA Cup for playing a non-registered player. Judicial equivalence would suggest that each of these three crimes fade into insignificance when compared with the misdemeanours perpetrated at West Ham.
4) West Ham United have gained numerous points through the skills of Carlos Tevez in particular - the man was not named supporter's player of the year for nothing. In every previous case that we are able to find of illegally registered players being included in teams, proportionality between points gained and points deducted has been the norm.
5) As we have stated previously, West Ham were heavily favoured by the match officials last season both in the Premiership and in their successful run to Trevor Brooking's FA Cup Final party. We strongly believe that the punishment would indeed have included points deductions if the defendants had been, say, Wigan Athletic or one of the other clubs that are not welcome in the Premiership. Magnussen's millions, Sir Trevor's influence and a suitable geographical location in England's capital are all key factors here.
In conclusion, this is evidently not a judicial level playing field. Curbishley and Magnussen's brigade deserve to be demoted for flagrantly flouting the rules of the game. The fact that some of the current hierarchy were not at the club when the misdemeanours occurred is irrelevant. Magnussen should have undertaken tests of due diligence when acquiring West Ham and the fine pales into insignificance when compared with the financial benefits of staying in the Premiership. Wigan Athletic have every right to feel aggrieved as not only are West Ham able to field Carlos Tevez in tomorrow's crucial relegation clash (as long as registered by midday Saturday) but also the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB) has decided in it's wisdom to select a certain Graham Poll to officiate.
This is just another one of those Premiership farces that one simply couldn't make up. How sordid...