Sheffield United's Third Party Influence
Martin Samuel has an excellent article in today's Times outlining how Sheffield United seem to have destroyed the game of football for ever. As well as ridiculing how the FA tribunal seem to have magical powers that allow them to determine how games might have turned out if teams fielded different players he also points out that Sheffield United exerted third party control over a player in the same season.
"(Sheffield United) won only a single match in the last five, against Watford, when Steve Kabba, a former player, mysteriously did not play for their opponents ...
Kabba is the sort of figure who could become hugely significant now that matches can be played in the minds of lawyers. He is on loan to Blackpool, was formerly a Sheffield United forward who had been loaned to Watford, with the deal then made permanent. Before Sheffield United and Watford met on April 28, 2007, Warnock, and match preview articles published on both official club websites, stated that Kabba could not feature because of an agreement as part of his transfer.
Kabba had played in 14 of the previous 15 matches for Watford and all of the previous eight. Any arrangement regarding his deselection would be illegal and a case of third-party interference. When the statements about Kabba were brought to the attention of the Premier League, it launched an investigation and Watford provided contract details showing that no pact had been put in writing. “There may be gentlemen's agreements between managers that, in fairness, clubs know nothing about,” McCabe said.
Yet Warnock was quoted in a local newspaper confirming that he had checked the issue and had been told that Kabba could not play, so it was not the manager's work. The most plausible explanation, therefore, is that a private deal was struck between clubs. To believe otherwise is to accept that an official information outlet of Sheffield United would carry false information uncorrected for several months, coincidentally replicated at Watford. Kabba-less, Watford lost 1-0.
And here is the rub. Who is to say that those three points for Sheffield United were any more, or less, significant than any match won by West Ham, with or without Tévez? And if West Ham could countersue, hire private investigators and subpoena everyone involved in the Kabba transfer to get to the bottom of it, would football have to peer deep into the brilliant mind of Griffiths and friends so that they could replay that match, too?"