West Ham United are to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after receiving legal advice that they can overturn an FA tribunal ruling that could lead to them paying millions of pounds to Sheffield United over the Carlos Tevez affair.
The Premier League club issued a strongly-worded statement last night questioning the logic of the judgement which accepted Sheffield United's claim that Tevez was fielded when he should not have been – having been owned by third-party companies in breach of the rules – and played a vital role in West Ham's survival in 2007.
Sheffield United have submitted a claim for £30m in loss of earnings following relegation with the tribunal scheduled to sit next month to start deliberating on the scale of the damages. West Ham will undoubtedly dispute that figure but have also now decided to go to the CAS, which sits in Lausanne, Switzerland. The CAS will first have to decide whether the case falls under its jurisdiction.
The club will argue that they have already been punished for breaching Premier League rules over the signing of Tevez – they were fined £5.5m – and, crucially, that his contribution to the 2006-7 season cannot simply be taken in isolation. At the same time the Premier League is understood to be bemused by the tribunal's reasoning and have asked for a copy of the ruling.
In a statement West Ham said: "While we respect the judgement of the FA arbitration panel, we do not accept that one player's contribution can be placed over that of the team as a whole nor used as the basis for judging the results of a 38-game season. This ruling undermines the significant efforts of our entire playing squad and coaching staff over the duration of the 2006-07 Premier League season and does not take sufficient account of the performances of the other 19 clubs in the competition.
"We acknowledge again that the club broke Premier League rules in the original signing of Carlos Tevez but we were dealt with accordingly by an independent Premier League commission and accepted the significant punishment handed down at that time. In light of this and the wider implications of this latest ruling for English football we have decided to ask that the case be considered by the CAS."
Those wider implications are thought to include the possibility of other clubs taking this course of action should they feel an injustice – such as a goal wrongly being awarded in a key game – is done to them. The tribunal's findings do appear to be based on a subjective and – some would say – emotional judgement.
The findings stated Tevez's services were worth at least three points to West Ham over the season and made the difference between remaining in the Premier League and being relegated. They also said that if talks between Tevez's adviser Kia Joorabchian and West Ham had been known to the Premier League they would have prevented him playing the final few matches of the season.
West Ham's chief executive Scott Duxbury has come in for criticism over the role he played in the saga but the club declared last night that his position was not under threat. Duxbury and the club's then chairman Eggert Magnusson insist they have never denied meeting Tevez's representatives at that time but that they were only seeking to either keep the player at Upton Park or find a way to sell him that would be approved by the Premier League.
The independent tribunal had found that Duxbury verbally assured Kia Joorabchian, the part-owner of Tevez, that the third-party agreement still existed even though he had informed the Premier League that it had been terminated so that he could play in West Ham's remaining games.
How Hammers could raise cash
Dean Ashton (Age 24, striker) £10m:
England international's stock continues to rise since joining West Ham from Norwich City for £7m in 2006. Recently linked with moves to Tottenham and Newcastle.
Rob Green (28, goalkeeper) £5m:
Shot-stopper who was in last England squad. Made £2m move from Norwich City in 2006. Saved three penalties last season and one this.
Matthew Upson (29, defender) £5m:
Centre-back endured injury-plagued start to Upton Park career. Came on as a substitute in England's recent 4-1 win in Croatia.
Mark Noble (21, midfielder) £5m:
England Under-21 captain has risen through the ranks at West Ham since making first-team debut aged 17.
Craig Bellamy (29, striker) £5m:
Welsh forward retains pace and eye for goal, demonstrated by strike against Blackburn last month.