United probe - Premier League to investigate the champions-elect
Manchester United's dream of
their first Premiership title for four
years was under a cloud last night with
the revelation that they face a Premier
League investigation into goalkeeper
Tim Howards £3 million transfer to Everton.
Sir Alex Fergusons team beat derby
rivals Manchester City 1-0 yesterday to
go eight points clear at the top and
they will clinch the title if Chelsea fail to
win at Arsenal today.
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But United face seeing a season of triumph
descend into chaos. In the
worst-case scenario, they could have
points deducted if they are found guilty
of breaking the same Premier League
rules under which West Ham were
massively fined last week.
Howard,the 28-year-old American, had been on
loan at Everton since last May and,
under Premier League rules, was not
allowed to play against United for the
duration of the loan.
It was announced in February that
the move was to become a permanent
transfer. But it is understood that Everton
agreed not to play Howard against
United this season, and when the two
sides met at Goodison a week ago, the
Americans place was taken by second choice
goalkeeper Iain Turner. The 22-
year-old made a crucial error, allowing
United to start the fightback which led
to their 4-2 victory.
The Premier League are now set to
investigate whether an agreement over
Howards availability existed and, if so,
whether it breached the same rules
which saw West Ham suffer a £5.5m
fine over the transfers to Upton Park of
Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez.
Those rules, U18 and B13, ban clubs
from entering into agreements which
allow a third party to influence
another clubs selection policy and
dictate that clubs must act with good faith towards each other
and the Premier League.
The League have confirmed to The Mail on
Sunday that no such agreement regarding
Howard was included in the transfer documents
lodged with them by the clubs and that if United
had requested it through official channels, they
would have been refused.
A Premier League spokesman said: "There is
no such clause in the transfer contracts of the
player and we are contacting the clubs to try
to clarify the situation."
Documents lodged with the Premier League when
the transfer was agreed between the clubs make it
clear that the permanent deal ran from February
and that it was no longer a loan.
Reports at the time suggested the permanent deal would begin in June and the loan would continue until the end of the season.
Both clubs declined to comment on the issue last
But Everton will be questioned by Premier
League secretary Mike Foster this week after their manager, David Moyes,
appeared to confirm that there was an agreement
between the clubs when he
explained before the game against United why Turner was playing.
Moyes was reported as saying: "While Tim
Howard was on loan he would not have been able
to play against his parent club, United.
"Although we have now signed him ourselves,
United wanted the loan clause to remain in
operation. It was partly the reason we were able to tie up the deal for next season as early as we did. We have abided by their wishes."
United, managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, and
Everton will be given a chance to explain the
circumstances of Howards transfer and his availability for his new club.
It is understood that Everton will claim a
gentlemens agreement existed over Howards
availability and they were at liberty to pick him
against United if they chose to. But such an argument may not satisfy the Premier League.
Premier League sources say that last season
Birmingham attempted to insert a clause into a
transfer deal forbidding Robbie Savage playing
against them for his new club, Blackburn Rovers.
Birmingham were refused permission to do so.
West Ham were fined a total of £5.5m because they
had allowed offshore companies to retain
influence over Mascherano and Tevez.
The Premier League commission ruled
that this represented a
clear breach of rule U18.
West Ham were also found to have breached
rule B13, stipulating that clubs must act in good
faith, and the clubs former chief executive, Paul Aldridge, was accused of telling the Premier League a direct lie when asked
about the agreements over the players.