Legal threat hangs over City decision

A LEADING sports lawyer has told Tottenham, Aston Villa and Liverpool they could consider action against the Premier League after Manchester City were afforded special dispensation to sign a goalkeeper last night.

League chiefs allowed City boss Roberto Mancini to recruit Sunderland’s Marton Fulop to his squad after Shay Given’s injury left the inexperienced Faroe Islander Gunnar Nielsen as his the club’s senior stopper.

The issue has taken on huge importance as Hungarian Fulop now looks set to play a decisive role in whether they beat his former club Spurs, Villa and Liverpool to the lucrative final Champions League place.

But a lawyer who successfully helped Sheffield United win damages from West Ham over the Carlos Tevez affair believes City’s rivals could take legal action against the Premier League for accepting the request.

“I am sure it is something they will consider and they are quite right to. When this discretion is given by the Premier League it is effectively advantaging one team over another,” Ian Cater of Denton Wilde Sapte told City A.M.

“When you have got a black and white situation it is easier for governing bodies to know what action to take. When dealing with shades of grey there is more scope to look to challenge.”

Graham Shear, a sports law specialist and partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner, agrees the issue is sensitive but believes the League’s decision is hard to challenge.

“I think the Premier League have quite a tough job in balancing this out,” he told City A.M.

“There is going to be vociferous complaint – Aston Villa and Spurs will be furious. But a legal challenge is very difficult; the Premier League has absolute authority over this.

“The difference with Tevez is that West Ham were held liable and breached the rules. In this instance, I do not see how any other team can bring proceedings. I think what will happen is they will bitch like crazy.”

If City’s rivals choose to challenge the League, Cater added, they would have to show it had not followed its own procedures, or reached an irrational decision.

He said: “Given those challenges I would be surprised if teams did seek to challenge. But, that said, there is a lot of money involved, and future issues.”