Date:Monday April 30 2007
In a week where we are totally preoccupied with leapfrogging Bristol City to claim the 2nd automatic promotion place in League One, there is also the small matter of the top 4 teams in Europe battling it out for a place in the Champions League final, providing some sporting hors d`œuvres in the middle of the week before the main even on Saturday afternoon. Chelsea travel to Anfield on Tuesday night before Manchester United make the trip to Milan on Wednesday with both away sides needing only a draw to progress. Now, apart from the fact that I would love to see an all English final for purely foot-balling reasons, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see Milan dispatched by Rooney and co. on Wednesday evening as I for one do not believe that the Italian giants should be there in the first place.
The initial punishment given to the club after being found guilty for their role in the Italian match fixing debacle consisted of a 15 point deduction and being removed from European competition for the following season. However, after a successful appeal the deduction was reduced from 15 to 8 points and the club were reinstated back into the Champions League. Now call me cynical, but I somehow I get the impression that without the ever-powerful institution that is Mr Silvio Berlusconi, Milan would not have even been given the chance to reach the final in Athens. In my humble opinion, match-fixing goes against everything that true sporting competition stands for and surely there are few greater crimes that can be committed in the game of football.
This then got me thinking about other recent crimes against football and the retribution received by the guilty parties. West Ham were last week given a record £5.5m fine for breaking Premier League rules over the transfer of the two Argentines in the summer, just escaping a points deduction that would have relegated them. The way I see it, this punishment can be viewed from two different angles. From one perspective it looks like a very strong message to the rest of the Premier League with West Ham receiving a severe kick in the wallet. The second perspective is a little more sinister. Five million pounds might sound like a lot of money, but considering the wealth of West Ham owner Eggert Magnusson and the potential financial impact of relegation to the Championship, it may be construed as a kop out by the Premier League. Premature relegation for West Ham would have had a negative impact on the rest of the Premier League season and may not have been in the best interests of Sky television either. But hey, I am just playing devil`s advocate here.
When you consider the punishment given to struggling Bury when they fielded an ineligible player in the FA Cup it does make you wonder where the justice is sometimes. Being thrown out of the FA Cup, whilst being a fair punishment considering the crime, arguably had a greater financial impact on the small Lancashire club than that of the £5.5m that West Ham were fined. It will always be easier to hit the small clubs that little bit harder of course, Rotherham`s points deduction after going into administration last season was another example of that. I found that harsh at the time and given the infamous decision by Leicester to go into administration to save their own skins a few years ago it does make it a bitter pill to swallow for the millers fans.
I might be wide of the mark on these issues, or possibly ill informed, but there is something about football that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth on occasions such as these. I have managed to get through this article without mentioning the UEFA Cup fracas of 1984 when Forest were cheated out of a place in the final but I guess we are all far too aware of that particular situation!
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