The Politics of Football: Sheffield United & Premier League

Is it a coincidence that the Premier League was scheduled to announce the fixtures for the 2007/2008 season on June 21st, but has now moved the date back to June 14th?

Could it be because the arbitration hearing between Sheffield United and the Premier League is scheduled for June 18 and 19?

The arbitration hearing into Sheffield United’s case should be of interest to all fans of Premier League teams. If, as Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe suggests, United will win the case and the previous decision will be overturned, this could send the league into mass chaos and a potential countersuit from West Ham.

The arbitration scheduled for June 18 and 19 comprises a three-man panel consisting of Lord Justice Sir Philip Otton (chairperson), David Pannick QC (who was nominated by the Blades) and leading barrister Nicholas Randall (nominated by the Premier League).

According to The Yorkshire Post newspaper, “although [the panel] cannot overturn the decision to fine the Hammers £5.5m, the panel can rule that the judgement was flawed and award compensation. They can also declare that the original decision was unlawful and should be set aside. If that is the case, the Blades would be in a strong position to lobby for re-instatement to the Premier League supported by a number of chairmen from top-flight rivals including Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Charlton Athletic and Middlesbrough.”

McCabe wants the Premier League to hold a fresh disciplinary hearing into the Tevez affair. If a new hearing was held, which is doubtful, and they decided that West Ham should be deducted three points, then the Hammers would be tied with Sheffield United, but West Ham would go down because they have a goal difference that’s one goal worse than Sheffield United.

Rather than relegate West Ham, the Premier League could decide (as Sheffield United suggests) to allow the Blades to stay in the league thereby allowing 21 teams next season instead of 20. I don’t see that happening, but it would avoid the issue of West Ham countersuing.

The most likely outcome is that the arbitration panel will decide that West Ham received significant punishment. I don’t agree with that, but I’d be surprised if the panel judges in Sheffield’s favor.

Again, the timing of the release of the 07/08 fixtures for the Premier League season on June 14 is crucial. The Premier League could argue during the arbitration hearing that because the fixtures have been released that it would be unreasonable to change them.

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  1. billeshears June 3, 2007
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