MARTIN SAMUEL: Relegation Lawyers 4U are only winners after Tevez ruling

19 March 2009 12:46
'Ultimately,however, we have not found it necessary to come to a conclusion whetherthe cause of Sheffield United's relegation was (a) the number of pointsachieved by West Ham with Mr Tevez's assistance or (b) SheffieldUnited's poor performance. At most Sheffield United's poor performancewas an equally effective cause. This is insufficient to displace thecausation of another effective cause. The law is summarised in Chitty on Contracts (29th ed), Vol 1, paragraph 26-038 under the heading 'Two Causes':'If a breach of contract is one of two causes, both co-operating andboth of equal efficacy in causing loss to the claimant, the partyresponsible for the breach is liable to the claimant for the loss. Thecontract breaker is liable so long as his breach was "an" effectivecause of his loss; the court need not choose which cause was moreeffective.'

Got that? Because you will be hearing a lot of it inthe future. It is the reason the Carlos Tevez saga is not over and theIain Hume saga may only just be beginning. It explains the emergence ofhideous opportunists Relegation Lawyers 4U and may ultimately infestevery facet of sporting competition, from the lowest Sunday league tothe top of the Premier League. It may not stop at football, either.

Was it really all down to me? Carlos Tevez during his eventful solitary season at Upton Park.

Page 46 of the Lord Griffiths ruling, if you are interested. Exceptnobody was. Mostly, people were so busy bellowing about justice whenthe Football Association tribunal produced a decision out of left field- much like the original Premier League commission that did not deductpoints from West Ham United because it was late in the season - thatthey did not examine the finer details, the precedents and principleson which the case had been won.

For here, on thepenultimate page of his summary, using contractual law from acompletely different area of commerce, Lord Griffiths, 85, brilliantlyestablishes that your league position is nothing to do with you. It isthe work of that lot, them, whoever they are. All the other teams. Andif one of them has acted in bad faith and you can link their action toyour misfortune, then it is bonanza time. All the events, all the gamesthat were within your control, cease to matter.

Now we canlook at this two ways. We can continue the celebrations or examine thewider ramifications, because even if you think Sheffield United weregypped, this is dangerous territory.

Indeed, SheffieldUnited may be the first club to discover the extent of the legalminefield that has been planted if Barnsley are relegated and theirdirectors chose to link their fall into League One to the elbow thrownby Chris Morgan, the Sheffield United captain, into the face of Hume,Barnsley's incapacitated striker and record signing.

JOIN THE DEBATE: Is £25m a fair price for West Ham to pay Sheffield United?

More of that later. To begin with, Chitty on Contracts (29th ed), Vol 1, paragraph 26-038 under the heading 'Two Causes',the precedent cited by Lord Griffiths to pin the responsibility forSheffield United's league position to a rival club. In other forms ofindustry, this is how it works. Say you and I are in business and I actin bad faith and break our contract. Your company then goes bust and weend up in court.

'Ah,' I say, 'but this firm was going tothe wall anyway. The staff were useless, the management incompetent, itwas a matter of time before it went toes up.'

According to Chitty on Contracts,this does not matter. You do not have to prove the viability of yourbusiness, only that by my actions I placed it in jeopardy. This is whatLord Griffiths applied in the Tevez case, except he used it withreference to a league table for which 20 clubs play 380 matches, whichis not the same as a one-to-one arrangement.

The ruling of Lord Griffiths could mean that Barnsley take action against Sheffield United after Iain Hume suffered a fractured skull in this challenge from Chris Morgan.

Were SheffieldUnited and West Ham in a two-team league, yes, the principle wouldapply; but how could West Ham be responsible for what happened on April17, 2007, for instance, when Neil Warnock, then the Sheffield Unitedmanager, chose to field a weakened team at Manchester United and lost2-0? How can a single player at another club be responsible forSheffield United having the worst away record in the Premier Leaguethat season? Who can quantify individual factors within so manyvariables? There were 19 other teams in the Premier League that seasonand Sheffield United lost to 16 of them.

On November 8, 2008, Barnsley striker Hume suffered brain damage asa result of a challenge from Sheffield United defender Morgan. Thereplays of this incident look horrendous. A yellow card was issued butno further action was taken by the FA.

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 Hume has not playedsince. It is sad but, under normal circumstances, there the matterwould end. At most, there could be a personal claim by Hume againstMorgan, which may still happen.

Yet what has changed as aresult of the Lord Griffiths ruling is the dynamic between the clubs.Barnsley were 17th and safe when that incident occurred and, at theweekend, dropped into the relegation zone. Is that now the work of aSheffield United employee? Would Hume have made the difference? Nobodyknows, and before the Lord Griffiths ruling this uncertainty would havebeen enough to preclude legal action. Now it is not.

Warnock,who must hold a world record for games lost in which it was somebodyelse's fault, and his former Sheffield United players are preparing forlegal action, because Tevez cut short their Premier League careers.

Yes,it was Carlos Tevez, then a West Ham striker, who caused Warnock's teamto lose to Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham before he had even joined WestHam, plus Reading (twice), Everton, Birmingham (in the Carling Cup),Chelsea (twice), Manchester United (twice), West Ham (Tevez did notscore and stormed away from Upton Park after being substituted on 66minutes), Portsmouth

, Manchester City, Middlesbrough

, Swansea (in the FA Cup), Blackburn

, Liverpool, Bolton, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Wigan

that season.

Stands to reason, doesn't it? Says right here on page 46.

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Source: Daily_Mail