There’s a news story that is continually breaking in England relating to Queens Park Rangers (QPR), a football club in London who on Saturday won 2-0 at Watford to clinch promotion and the Championship Title (the tier below the Premiership). However, today the FA started a hearing with the club to determine whether or not they broke FA rules regarding the ownership of players, and early leaks or news/non-news suggests a substantial points deduction, enough to force the club to attempt to gain promotion via the play offs (the top two teams in the league standings gain automatic promotion, the next four clubs must compete in a play off competition for the final promotion spot).
I’ve not really blogged on this ever so much yet because if I’m honest, I’m a little baffled about exactly what it is that the club has apparently done wrong! The charge generally mentioned is “third party ownership”, and perhaps someone can correct me, but my imagination is that this refers to the ownership of a player’s registration documents enabling him to play in the Premiership or Football League, and the problem is that somebody other than the club fielding the player owns them and hence the player is ineligible (if the owner isn’t another football club). This article by Matt Slater compares the player in question, Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin, to a brand new car, and he is talked of as being owned as if he is a slave – presumably what is meant is his registration documents for playing football? In which case, why is it that the player himself cannot own his own rights? After all, players are quite well paid, particularly those at a club that has just won promotion to the Promised Land Premiership?
That’s by the by, however. There’s a rather delicate question of what exactly the FA will do to QPR. The usual thing is a point deduction, what has already been talked about. Six points and QPR are forced into second place; ten and they must take part in the play-offs. As Slater points out, Luton Town recently had a 10-point deduction for misdemeanours related to payments. On the other hand, the most famous English example of “third party ownership” is Carlos Tevez and West Ham; they escaped relegation from the Premiership on goal difference, with Sheffield United suffering in their place. Yet West Ham were only fined and didn’t have any points deducted for the crime of “third party ownership”, much to the annoyance of Sheffield United and their then manager, who by remarkable coincidence (or otherwise…) is the current manager of QPR.
The news today is that a points deduction is likely, yet as Slater points out, the FA has enough leeway to deduct points and still not materially affect the season’s outcome, as QPR are five points clear at the top of the table. Would that ensure that the FA doesn’t face appeals and various legal appeals for years to come, as with the Tevez saga? For me though, what is never exactly discussed is what exactly is so wrong with “third party ownership”?