Pretty Persuasion

Late this afternoon Tottenham Hotspur FC lodged an official appeal against the Premier League recognising the result of their match at West Ham United on Sunday. The full text can be found on their website. In the first instance, I would say that there is no surprise that they have lodged an appeal, indeed it could be said that to not appeal would be regarded as a dereliction of the directors duties to the club, shareholders and supporters. It must be galling to lose out on the last Champions League spot, particularly to their closest rivals, under normal circumstances let alone those where illness has taken hold of half of your first team squad. The Premier League Board will discuss the matter, I presume as a matter of some urgency.

The premise of the appeal is to obtain fairness for Tottenham Hotspur, giving the players due reward for their hard work and the chance to win their place at Europe’s Top Table, the supporters to see the elite of Europe for at least twelve weeks. However, in obtaining fairness for themselves, the instantly gain an advantage over their fellow clubs. To replay the match allows them a second chance to gain their spoils but will also put West Ham United at a disadvantage. Firstly, they have an FA Cup Final this coming weekend so that rules out any match this week otherwise their players risk injury or being less rested than Liverpool. Logically therefore the match has to be replayed after the FA Cup Final. This is impracticable and maybe impossible on two counts. Firstly, whilst Sepp Blatter removed his foot from his mouth to support Tottenham’s case, he stated that the match must take place on or before May 15th. This is why the second reason comes into existence. Either West Ham play the match on the 15th, meaning two games in three days or if it is played before the Cup Final, West Ham will be perfectly entitled to demand that the Cup Final be replayed due to extenuating circumstances should say, Nigel Reo-Coker, pick up an injury. So the match would need to be played probably on the 20th to give West Ham sufficient time to recover from the FA Cup Final physically. But what of their mental attitude? Should they be on the wrong end of a hiding, the players would not be at their peak when they play Tottenham again. Prior to Sunday’s match, Alan Pardew stated that there were four places in the Cup Final up for grabs. Some of the players would know they were pretty sure of their place but what of the others. How many thought he was referring to themselves and significantly raised their performance? This is unquantifiable.

There is a precedent for extending the season – FIFA have given the RFEF push Spain’s final Primera Liga games back to 20th May. So why not play the game then? Well, an extension of the point above is that you cannot recreate the pressure or tension of the final day of the League season. You cannot recreate the nerves felt by players acutely aware of their rivals progress and striving to raise their own game, increasing the tempo, making more mistakes as they try to rectify their own problems. Of course, you could always order Arsenal v Wigan to be replayed but that will never happen as (a) it is inherently unfair on Arsenal and (b) were it to be ordered, there is every chance that Arsenal would launch a legal challenge to the process which could also encompass the Premiership’s initial order to replay West Ham v Tottenham.

And what of replaying the match. I do not know what Revenues West Ham gained on Sunday but should the appeal be favourable to Tottenham, the East London club would presumably have to refund all ticket and programme sales to Supporters or offer free seats to those who attended the original game, failure to do so would render them open to legal action from the supporters seeking reimbursement for Sunday’s game that will never have taken place. Therefore, The Hammers will have additional costs with less revenue to cover them so this would necessitate the Premier League having to cover these or perhaps even Tottenham will do the honourable thing and pay the stewards, police, power bills?

As far as prize money is concerned, West Ham cannot lose out as they finished four points clear of their nearest rivals. Tottenham can only gain whilst Arsenal would have a strong case for arguing that they should receive the same as fourth place as this is where they have finished the season. And what of other financial losses that Arsenal will suffer, such as loss of Champions League revenues? Will Tottenham, The FA or The Premier League make good these? And what if Thierry Henry were to decide that no Champions League football means he will leave? How would this be rectified? In the latter scenario, it is impossible to do so.

Above all reasons, the appeal must fail as there can only be one beneficiary, Tottenham Hotspur. The outcome is too much of a minefield for the Premiership to consider giving them a positive response whilst the Tottenham Board would do well to accept the original decision in the same phlegmatic manner that their manager did.

Some final thoughts on the letter itself. Daniel Levy claims that he has the support of the majority of the Chairmen of The Premier League clubs. Of course he does – they neither lose nor gain so why not boost his ego by agreeing with him. But pose the question to them when they have something to lose and see how many supporters he has then. Slightly less than one in all probability. And they are well aware of the dangerous precendent that could be set and the potentially negative impact it could have on them in the future. So Mr Levy is perhaps being optimistic in his claim.

Mischeviously, Levy alludes to Arsenal stating that if this occurred on the morning of the Champions League final, UEFA would deal in a fairer manner than The Premier League dealt with Tottenham. This is highly unlikely as UEFA have more financially to lose than the FAPL. Where UEFA may be more flexible is getting the police and other authorities to delay kick – off by more than two hours. All of this is pure conjecture as published legal advice indicates that the Appeal is doomed to fail, principally through Tottenham participating in the match at West Ham.

One final postscript. Should the Appeal succeed and Tottenham win to deny Arsenal Champions League competition next season, it would be the single biggest motivational tool in Arsene Wengers’ armoury a week tomorrow in Paris. At least this season has stopped the decline in the local rivalry, indeed the injustice felt by Tottenham may just have upped the ante ever so slightly.

Todays Tunes come from Paul Weller, two tracks from his concert in Stuttgart in April of this year. Thanks to Chippo for posting the gig.

Long Hot Summer


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