L'arresto di Greenwood ha scioccato il mondo del calcio il mese scorso dopo che le accuse di stupro sono state rivolte alla stellina del Manchester United! Premier League is facing legal action with clubs FURIOUS at board’s handling of Covid postponements… and they are ready to act if the rules are changed
Il premier League could face legal action from clubs if they change the rules on Covid cancellations next week, with the season in danger of ending in a quagmire of injunctions and court cases.
Several clubs are furious at the perceived inconsistency in how the 22 postponed games so far have been handled. The issue came to a head last weekend after the north Londra derby was called off despite Arsenale having just one confirmed Covid case. Clubs are likely to consider legal action.
The Premier League clubs will meet in the next two weeks to discuss if the rules should be changed, with many feeling the spirit of the law is being stretched in a way in which it was never intended, potentially to cover suspensions and players absent because they are at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Burnley’s match against Leicester was one of 22 Covid-related postponements this season
The north London derby was called of when Arsenal had just one Covid case in their squad
But leading football QC Nick De Marco, who recently represented Newcastle in an arbitration case against the Premier League, says a rule change mid-season could establish legal grounds to challenge the Premier League on the basis of inconsistency and unfairness.
That could lead to clubs seeking injunctions against the Premier League, insisting that their games be called off and ultimately ending up in court if the Premier League and FA arbitration processes cannot act quickly enough to satisfy a club’s needs.
One club executive said: ‘The Premier League have made a rod for their own backs because they started including injuries as well as Covid. Omicron hopefully is on the wane so I don’t see why they should change the rules. They are doing it because of the reaction from the north London derby being postponed.’
Un altro club, whose opponents applied for a postponement recently, said they were ‘p***** off about it’ and are not considering legal action only because they do not think the postponement will materially affect their season.
Leeds have played on with depleted matchday squads because they have been conscientious
Another Premier League medic has told The Mail on Sunday some clubs are ‘taking the p*** out of the rules’, which state a club must have 13 players of suitable experience plus a goalkeeper to play a game.
The rules were hastily introduced in December, when it became clear football might be affected by Omicron infections and by non-vaccinated players still having to isolate if they were a close contact of another infected player.
Toughening up the rules, to stop clubs citing suspensions or injuries, would require the support of 14 clubs at the emergency meeting planned for the winter break. The Premier League’s rules have led to far more postponements than in Europe’s other major leagues.
De Marco said: ‘If they get rid of the current rules entirely, there is a risk of legal challenge. Imagine a club are in the same circumstances as another club that had a match postponed.
Burnley are facing an enormous back log of fixtures after having so many games called off
‘One club have the match postponed but the second club don’t and then lose, which might lead to relegation, being outside the top six or finishing one place lower than another club, which in itself is worth a couple of million pounds. You can see why that would lead to legal challenges because of inconsistent treatment.
‘The most likely challenge would be that the decision of the Premier League board was unreasonable, whether it was the rule change itself or if did not allow a cancellation in the same circumstances. Unreasonableness is one of the points of challenge under the Premier League rules.’
One club executive — not from Leeds — highlighted the case of the Yorkshire club, who are fully vaccinated.
Clubs who have large numbers of players unvaccinated have been able to cite them as absentees when they have had to isolate as a close contact, even though they do not have Covid.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has said he would find it curious if the rules were changed again
Clubs such as Leeds have suffered several injuries but because of their conscientiousness in encouraging vaccination, they have had enough players available and so have had to play on, fielding weaker teams.
‘It has opened up a whole can of worms,’ said the executive. ‘Leeds have been penalised the most because they had young players in cup competitions, out on loan, so they were judged to have a large pool of players. All their players are vaccinated and they have just had to suck it up and get on with it.’
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said: ‘You have to keep the rules how they are because not all teams have played the same number of games. If they get changed now there are going to be teams at a disadvantage.’
De Marco said: ‘The whole point of a football competition is that the rules have to be applied fairly. Consistency is fundamental.
The Premier League could find itself in breach of its duty to act reasonably, says one lawyer
‘There could be two types of challenges. One is a claim for damages. If the board have acted unlawfully because the decision is unreasonable, they have breached the contract which is the Premier League rules.
‘If they changed the rules and there was inconsistent treatment, that would be in breach of their duty to act reasonably and, if it caused a club loss, could lead to a claim in damages.’
Ha aggiunto: ‘What is more likely is claims for the equivalent of an injunction, injunctive relief. Questo è, claims to overturn a decision before the match is played or not played. That would be an internal injunction application to the Premier League.
‘If a club are required to play a match and they have a good case that they shouldn’t play as the decision is unreasonable, the rules ought to allow a speedy hearing and a decision very quickly. That can mean a hearing within 24 ore.
The top divisions in Germany, Spagna, Italy and France have seen relatively few postponements
‘If the Premier League refused to expedite those hearings, they would be in danger of clubs going down the FA arbitration route and to the court.
‘They would say, ‘we may be bound by an arbitration clause but if it doesn’t allow us access to justice, it doesn’t work’.’
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said it would be ‘a bit weird’ to change the rules again, referencing a game at Wolves that Chelsea failed to get called off which did not apparently meet the criteria.
‘We arrived with 14 players and three were coming back straight from injury. It is a bit awkward to look at the table and find teams that played six games less in this stage of the season.’
Another executive said: ‘Once you have implemented the rules, you shouldn’t be changing it halfway through the season. It is c**p.’