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West Ham Saga Finally Over? Not By A Long Shot!


West Ham fans must be some of the hardest-suffering supporters on the planet. The “Academy of Football” enjoys a sterling reputation for developing talent. No less than 8 of the 23-man squad called up for the Spain Friendly had ties to The Upton Park outfit, many of them coming through the youth set-up. Despite a steady stream of talent, the team is a classic yo-yo club bouncing from top flight to Championship and back again with unsettling regularity. Just as something starts to gel, players are sold off and the process starts again. New, “filthyrich” owners arrive on the scene, only to produce a false dawn due to failing Icelandic banks. Bankrupt sponsors heaped on the misery, leaving patchwork West Ham kits looking, as Ernest Hemingway put it, “like the flag of permanent defeat.”

Usually, West Ham’s suffering centered on the pitch or the boardroom. A few years ago, however, the courtroom became the newest venue for the West Ham soap opera. Recently, Chris Walker wrote a compelling piece for EPL Talk summarizing the sordid West Ham transfer saga featuring Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, and Sheffield United’s desire to seek compensation for damages. Finally, after two years in the courts, the clubs have come to a settlement. Finally, all football fans can put this to the farthest reaches of their memories and move on from this embarrassingly regrettable episode.

Or so we thought.

The case for West Ham was pretty cut and dried. With the team far enough up the table to not worry about relegation, it was time to sort out a definite payment plan with Sheffield United. Once these “X” factors were solved, the path was clear for Eggert Magnusson to sell the club. Finally, it was possible to establish a price for potential buyers with no strings attached. All debts were established, all revenues determined, the books were clean.

Unfortunately, a little “what if?” scenario seems to have reared its head in lieu of the Sheffield United settlement. The compensation package deals with the club vs. club conflict, but what if the players and manager also felt aggrieved at loss of revenue that comes from relegation. Looks like we’re going to find out.

Today, it has been revealed that the players and manager Neil Warnock are exploring court action to seek compensation for lost revenue. In most ways, it appears the players have a fair case. After all, many contracts, particularly with a club that could enjoy only a one-year Premiership tour of duty, would have clauses and provisions that address wage packets for various divisions of play. But while the same goes for appearance, goal, and win bonuses, it becomes much trickier to establish exactly how much would have been paid out since you actually have to appear, score and win in the Premiership to earn these incentives. Additionally, transfer fees certainly change when you can offer yourself as an established Premiership player instead of one not good enough to keep a team at the top level. This could conceivably adjust a player’s valuation by millions of pounds.

So, the water becomes pretty murky in a hurry. But it gets worse. While players who suffered the unjust relegation appear to have a relevant claim, what about the spinoff effect? Could a player like Phil Jagielka claim he’d have been more important to United than Everton, and could have commanded a larger wage packet with a struggling Premiership side? Could he argue that he could have earned a bigger transfer fee (and subsequent cut of the transfer fee) if he could have packaged himself as a Premiership player instead of part of a relegation fire sale?

Could a player like Rob Hulse claim that he never would have left the Blades, that they’d still be a Premiership team, and therefore he’s lost out on more years of salary than can be proven thorugh empirical means?

Can a player like James Beattie argue that, had he joined a Premiership Sheffield United instead of the Championship version, he could have received more in transfer fee and wages? Where does it end? Sadly, it appears the end will only come when we run out of creative lawyers who are willing to try yet another tendril of “relevance”.

West Ham fans deserve better than this. All they want to do is enjoy their football with the only uncertainties the ones brought on by a system that releases lowest clubs to the lower divisions and rewards successful clubs with additional European fixtures. Instead, it appears that the attempt to finally put paid to financial uncertainty has opened a Pandora’s box of litigation. In the end, the £10-15 million paid out to Sheffield United might be dwarfed in payments in the form of personal claims and lawyers’ fees. Just when you thought it was over, the real legal work could be just beginning.

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  1. Chris Walker

    March 21, 2009 at 8:57 am

    the simple thing to do is strap richard scudamore to a pole and let fans of both teams slap him repeatedly. Would it achieve anything? Probably not but it would be both appropriate and satisfying to all concerned.

  2. Patrick

    March 18, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Yeah and I put a bet in that the Blades would not get relegated…. where my cash ( as if)

    My understanding is that the payment is not an admission of guilt but very much like an out of court settlement. No one agrees to any wrong doing and the Blades get their cash. And did you hear none of that cash will go to buying players but to McCabe’s bank account. Cause remember it wasn’t about the money, but fairness.

    and by the way West Ham is owned by Björgólfur Guðmundsson. Eggert Magnússon was the acting president owning about 10% but stepped down in December of 2007 after his free spending on players that could best described as over paid rubbish. Think Dyer, Bowyer and that underware model from Le Arse.

    You also forgot to mention that the club is presently being sued by Allan Curbishley for 3 million pounds for breach of contract. Claiming that his contract was voided when players where sold without his consent.

    and there are still payments out to now club consultant Kia Joorabchian over his work with the team, also known as blood money over the Tevez deal.

    and I really think that if there is a suit by Bates or any player or manager that it will be against the FA. They are the ones who decided punishment and they are the ones who set the rules as they are. At least that is how a West Ham lawyer would argue it.

    and I also think you have West Ham pegged a bit low as a yo yo club. I think you need to look a bit longer into the Brown years, the Redknapp divorce over the sale of Rio, Lampard then leaving… then in 2003 they go down with what 43 points with a team that featured Joe Cole, David James, Carrick, Kanute, Trev Sinclair, and legend Paulo Di Canio. and a manager with a brain tumor. The 2002 England team had five hammers on it, not including the ones that got away. But you also have to remember its an East End club. just read the Newham Recorder for a week. In Zola we trust…

    Seriously you can’t make this up. not even in a Hollywood film about the dark days of thug supporters.

    just like my dreams….

  3. Chris Walker

    March 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Well…at the time i wrote that article i genuinley thought – finally, its over! Incidentally, i heard a sports lawyers view on the possible player’s claim to compensation. He confirmed that the Blades legal action was successful as they were techinically in contract with West Ham during their stay in the Premier League due to the rules/reglations/law/duties of being a member of the top flight. However he confirmed that the players were only ever in contract with their own club , therefore West Ham owed them nothing. What the players/Neil Warnock will now have to do is prove that they have suffered a loss of earnings due to West Ham breaching their contract with the Blades and the Premier League. As we all know law can be open to interperatation so this may well drag on for some time yet. I have also noticed that Leeds want a windfall due to United’s relegation losing the West Yorkshire club revenue in player payments. This was in respect of Ian Bennett, Rob Hulse and Matthew Kilgallons transfers to Sheffield United involving clauses that meant Leeds would recieve additions to transfer fees if the Blades stayed up. I deserve better than being stuck with Sheffield United – never boring though!

  4. williamhill

    March 18, 2009 at 10:23 am

    yep, everyone will be wanting a piece of the action.

  5. Scott Bennett

    March 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

    This just in: In addition to players, other clubs are looking for compensation too. Leeds United is seeking legal advice over lost transfer add-on clauses that didn’t kick in because of Sheffield United’s relegation. This thing could go one forever.


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