After a lengthy and somewhat confusing period of deliberation, the Football Association finally decided not to deduct points from Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers this morning. The west London side, who mathematically secured the Championship title last weekend, can now start planning for life in the Premier League after fears that the FA’s decision would have left them in the play-off places.
However, the manner in which the FA has handled this case has attracted criticism. The uncertainty created by the long wait for a verdict (which was delivered eight months after initial investigations began) meant that QPR and the Football League had to make contingency plans for the end of season play-offs. These plans would have had a knock-on effect on several other Championship clubs had they been effected.
The QPR case has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons with the Carlos Tevez/West Ham United case of 2007. Ironically, QPR manager Neil Warnock was adversely affected in that instance, as his Sheffield United side were relegated as a result of the decision not to dock West Ham United points. He described today’s outcome as a “relief”, and was spared the ridiculous scenario of effectively being punished as a third-party victim and offender of a third-party ownership breach.
With two high-profile cases decided in the last four years (with both offending parties being punished by way of a fine), the FA has now set a clear precedent with regards to breaches concerning third-party ownership. The increased media coverage on third-party ownership means that clubs should be well prepared on how to avoid falling foul of FA regulations.
Although the FA’s tendency to approach breaches of its regulations on a case-by-case basis has its merits, it must try to adopt a uniform, arbitrary response to dealing with infractions. A failure to do so would lead to further confusion and unfairness in the future, and these are things that no-one in the football fraternity would like to see again.
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