Friday, April 27, 2007

The Judgement

The full judgement of the hearing into Tevez and Mascherano can be read here.

Essentially the hearing have decided that the signing of Tevez and Mascherano was clearly linked with Joorbachian's attempt to buy the club. The hearing is equally clear that Eggert Magnusson "had no part to play in, or then had any knowledge of, the events that led to these proceedings."

The hearing found that "the economic rights of Tevez are owned exclusively and absolutely by MSI and Just Sports Inc ... the companies had the sole, exclusive and unilateral right, upon serving written notice to the club during the January transfer window, to terminate his contract with West Ham upon payment to the club of £2 million ... the companies have the unilateral option to exercise that right of termination during any subsequent UK transfer window for the sum of £100,000 payable to the club."

West Ham's strange defence to these arguments appears to have been that although West Ham signed contracts with MSI that ensured the company essentially retained ownership of the players, those contracts were "clearly invalid as being in restraint of trade". So West Ham signed the contracts but that was OK because the contracts weren't enforceable under employment law.

The hearing, whilst acknowledging that the contracts may well have been 'in restraint of trade' rejected West Ham's arguments and decided "that West Ham believed that they were entering into valid, enforceable contracts and were of that belief at all relevant times."

Therefore the hearing decided that West Ham broke Rule U18 and that "third parties acquired the ability materially to influence the club's policies or performance of the team." Although the hearing also accepted West Ham's argument that at no time did West Ham allow third parties to influence the club's policies or performance.

Duxbury's defence appears to be that in a telephone call about the signings with the Premier League he was not told about Rule 18. The Premier League claims he was. Again this seems a strange defence - surely everyone knows ignorance of a law / rule is not a valid defence.

Because of media speculation about the signings the Premier League later contacted Duxbury and "asked him if the club had entered into any arrangements with any third parties." The Premier League says that "his answer was an unequivocal "no". Mr Duxbury says that he essentially ducked that question. He did not say yes, he did not say no." He also claimed he still did not know about Rule 18.

The Premier League intrigued as to how West Ham had acquired the players so cheaply contacted the club and were told by Mr Aldridge that "there was no such documentation and the players had come to the club as part of the takeover by Mr Joorabchian; that they had reached a gentlemen's agreement whereby the players would be released by the club for a modest fee if the takeover did not take place." The Premier League therefore claim that they thought the deals were legitimate and allowed them to go ahead.

The hearing's judgement then is that Duxbury and Aldridge both misled the Premier League. Furthermore the hearing is clearly sceptical of Duxbury's claims that he didn't know about Rule U18, "we cannot say that Mr Duxbury must have been aware of Rule U18 but we find it surprising that he was not. He has been involved in providing legal advice to football clubs for many years. To be unaware of the rules and/or to fail to research the rules so as to discover the impact of U18 is, as we say, surprising."

The hearing clearly states that they believe Brown, Aldridge and Duxbury intentionally withheld the contracts with MSI from the Premier League,

"Messrs Brown, Aldridge and Duxbury were anxious to complete the registration of these players by the deadline of 31st August. They knew that the only means by which they could acquire them would be by entering into the third party contracts. Equally, they were aware that the FAPL, at the very least, may not -- and in all probability would not -- have approved of such contracts. They determined to keep their existence from the FAPL."

In the case of Rule B13 "an officer of the club, its chief executive officer (Aldridge), told Mr Scudamore a direct lie, namely there was no documentation of whatever kind in respect of these players which the FAPL had not seen."

The hearing decided then that "The club has been responsible for dishonesty and deceit." In deciding not to make a points deduction the hearing took a number of things into consideration, including,

1. West Ham pleaded guilty
2. The club is now under new ownership
3. The players and fans are innocent

The club have been fined "£2.5 million in respect of breach of Rule U18, and £3 million in respect of breach of B13."

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