Mr Dave Richards
The FA Premier League,
30 Gloucester Place
9 May 2006
Re: Protest and request for the match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur FC on 7/5/06 to be replayed
As you are aware, Sunday could have been a momentous day for our Club and our fans. It was the first time since the inception of the UEFA Champions League that we were in a position to qualify for European club footballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most prestigious competition. After such a successful League campaign, the excitement and expectation of our fans was simply enormous. Our match at West Ham was effectively a Cup Final.
However, we believe that our chances of success were significantly reduced by the exceptional circumstances brought about by the sudden illness of the majority of players in our First Team squad in the early hours of Sunday morning. In being given no viable option to postpone the match other than a 2-hour delay to kick-off, our players were denied the possible opportunity of competing in the Champions League, while our fans have been left with a sense of suspicion and injustice at the way subsequent events unfolded.
We contacted the FAPL early on Sunday morning and, after a series of conversations, the FAPL called for the England Team Doctor and the FAPL Company Secretary to attend our Team Hotel to assess the situation. We believed that the FAPL were examining the situation in good faith and were seeking to obtain all relevant information before coming to a decision. Indeed, in those early conversations the FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Chief Executive had given us every reason to believe the match could be postponed to allow our players some extra time to recover from a lack of sleep, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration.
At this time, myself, Board members and other key decision makers joined the players at their hotel. Whilst waiting for the opinion of the England Team Doctor, who was yet to arrive at our Team Hotel, I was contacted from a distance by the FAPL and told that we had to play the game that day or suffer the consequences. This, by implication, may have meant a significant loss of points and the denial of participation in any European competition Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a situation I could not sanction. This threat was made by the FAPL despite the fact that West Ham United, acting honourably and fairly as would be expected from that club, had consented to the postponement of the match provided that any re-match did not interfere with their FA Cup Final preparations.
The FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Chief Executive then said he would consider the match being delayed to later on Sunday evening, but unfortunately the Police would not sanction a kick off time beyond 5pm. Our medical staff advised that a delay of at least 3 hours would be necessary to have any impact on the players and therefore it was Martin JolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s view that, in the absence of a postponement or a much later kick-off, we had no choice whatsoever but to proceed to play at 3pm. What puzzles us is why the FAPL were prepared to sanction a 4 hour delay but not a 24 hour delay. If the integrity of all matches kicking off at the same time was your primary concern, why sanction a delay of any kind?
Our next issue was team selection. Martin Jol and his staff, having originally selected their squad of 17 players for the match, were then left in the invidious position of choosing between starting the match with their original 17 players, 10 of whom were feeling very unwell, or drafting in Reserve Team players, the majority of whom have not played for the First Team this season or are untried and untested at First Team level. In any case, having ended their season, our Reserve Team players were scattered across various parts of London and the South East, would not have been prepared to play in a Premier League (or any other) match at such short notice and would rarely, if ever, have played together.
This was an impossible position for our coaching staff to find themselves in on the morning of what was our most important match for many years. Playing a make-shift, inexperienced and ill-prepared team in such a high profile game could have turned the match into a farce, resulting in an embarrassment for the players, the coaches, the Club, our fans and the Premier League competition as a whole.
To add insult to injury, the FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement that our game would not be postponed was made live on Sky TV from the pitch side at Highbury. In light of the obvious sensitivities and the competition for 4th place between Arsenal and Spurs this was, to say the least, an unfortunate choice.
We simply do not understand why the FAPL failed to appraise itself of all of the facts before turning down our request that the fixture be postponed under rule E 13.4. We were surprised that the FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Chief Executive did not make the short journey from Highbury to the Team Hotel at Canary Wharf to assess such a serious issue first hand. We also fail to understand why the England Team Doctor, having been sent to the Team Hotel, was not even consulted before an announcement was made (in fact, he did not even arrive at our hotel before the decision was made or even before our players had to leave the Team Hotel to travel to Upton Park for the match). As a result we played the game with players who were unwell but who were desperate not to let their fans and colleagues down. Clearly, our governing body put us in an impossible situation and gave a significant advantage to Arsenal in competing for that 4th position.
With this in mind we contacted those Premier League Chairmen and Chief Executives we were able to locate to establish what fellow members feel is an appropriate way forward given the unorthodox decision made by the FAPL prior to receiving objective information on the situation. We now have confirmation from a majority of Premier League clubs that they would support a replay and in similar circumstances would expect the game to have been postponed. This is a gesture made by fellow clubs which supports the CharterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aims of running a professional league in a manner in which all of its member Clubs are treated equally and in a professional, fair and objective way. Additionally, from comments made by Sepp Blatter in the media in the past 24 hours, even FIFA would support the idea of a postponement provided the match was played on or before 15 May 2006.
We therefore formally request that you order that the game be replayed.
It is regrettable that we have been put in this position, but we feel let down by the FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s abdication of its responsibility to consider the request for a postponement fairly and after due consideration of all relevant factors. Where such significant commercial and competitive interests are jeopardised it is only reasonable that our governing body ensures we play on a level playing field and supports us by making decisions based on the facts of the situation which has to include all relevant information. We feel sure that the FAPL, along with most reasonable minded people, would not have wanted such a controversial outcome to the final day of the Premier League season. Furthermore, the FAPL was inconsistent in its approach in being prepared to consider the kick-off to be delayed but not allowing the match to be played on a different day.
Finally, whilst our primary concern here is for our own Club, the situation we find ourselves in highlights what could have been an even bigger issue for a Club facing relegation from the FAPL. Similarly, it is hard to believe that, faced with an identical issue on the morning of a Champions League Final, a club would not seek a postponement (with the opposing team consenting) and that, given the importance of such an occasion, such a request would not be granted by UEFA in the interests of fairness and good sporting practice. In our view, and regardless of the outcome of our case, the FAPLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision making process and lines of communication in such a situation need thorough and urgent review in order to ensure that no other club is similarly disadvantaged in the future.
Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur
The Club has sent the following open letter to Dave Richards, Chairman of the FA Premier League.