Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Blades pan West Ham in bid to overturn relegation

AP , LONDON

Sheffield United on Monday sought to overturn its demotion from the Premier League, citing relegation rival West Ham's illegal signing of Argentina stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

West Ham was fined ?5.5 million (US$10.8 million) in April by an independent panel for breaking Premier League rules by signing Tevez and Mascherano on third-party contracts in August last year. However, the panel stopped short of docking points from West Ham.

Sheffield United pressed its case against the Premier League at a two-day arbitration hearing that opened on Monday.

Arbitration

"It's been a busy day," Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe said at the close of the day's session. "Tomorrow there will be further evidence and then the panel will opine and decide. The arbitration is going well and I think the panel recognize all the points of the case."

Sheffield United wants the three-man panel to decide if the original decision to only fine the club was "legally flawed" and, if so, for a disciplinary commission to hear the case.

Sheffield United also wants the panel to rule on whether the Premier League acted unlawfully by not stripping Tevez of his league registration. Fulham, which successfully avoided relegation, is backing Sheffield United on the second point.

"The arbitral panel have no power to decide what the penalty to be imposed upon West Ham should be," the arbitration panel said in a statement. "This will be within the exclusive remit of the disciplinary commission, if one is convened as a result of the arbitral panel's decision."

West Ham said it correctly changed Tevez's contract in April. Mascherano was sold to Liverpool in January on a Premier League-approved contract.

Although West Ham accepted the fine and acknowledged that it broke the rules, Tevez continued to play and his goals helped the London side avoid relegation.

Sheffield United dropped down instead to the League Championship, and the Blades insist West Ham should have been docked points as well as fined.

The fixtures have already been released for the 2007-2008 season, with West Ham in the Premier League and Sheffield United in the League Championship.

McCabe said relegation would cost Sheffield United ?50 million, but stressed its appeal was based on principle.

"It's not so much the money, it's the fact that one club that has not breached the rules has been relegated whilst another club that has breached the rules has retained its Premiership status and that's the key argument," McCabe said.

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