Friday 9 January ~
Every day seems to bring a new crisis for West Ham. Three players have left this week, the club's owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is facing bankruptcy, which could in turn lead to the club having points deducted, and now the most convoluted official investigation in football history has been given a new lease of life. For reasons that are not entirely clear, even though they have been assessed at punishing length in today's papers, the FA and the Premier League are to conduct a further inquiry into allegations that West Ham officials misled the football authorities during the Carlos Tevez transfer saga.
The dozens of people who have already given testimony to the various tribunals and appeal hearings will now be asked for further comments. But whatever action may yet be taken, it is unlikely to address the central issue, which is that footballers' contracts simply should not be owned by third parties.
If Tevez had signed outright for Manchester United in 2007 rather than joining them on loan, we would have had the absurd situation of the UK transfer record fee being paid to an individual – the player's agent, Kia Joorabchian – rather than another club. United subsequently set the current record between two English clubs in giving Spurs £30 million for Dimitar Berbatov, who is now keeping Tevez out of the team. As Tevez no longer seems to be a key element in Sir Alex Ferguson's plans, it seems increasingly likely that he won't be staying with the club when his current deal expires at the end of the season. But he may yet end up staying in Manchester given his “owner” is now acting as a consultant to City. However that pans out, Kia Joorabchian is still going to make a lot of money.
Third-party ownership of footballers began in South America during a period of rampant inflation in the 1980s when bankrupt clubs sold players' contracts to agents. The current recession may yet lead clubs to here to adopt similar measures. The Premier League as an organisation is essentially a facilitator for its member clubs with no broader responsibilities to safeguard the game. That role is meant to be played by the FA, despite their shameful connivance in the creation of the Premier League back in 1992. Rather than disinterring the Tevez investigation, their time would be better spent on creating mechanisms to prevent any such situation ever arising again.
Still, there is some good news for West Ham. After 16 months out injured Kieron Dyer (remember him?) may be ready to play again soon.