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Butler: Relegation dog fight takes on new meaning

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Noel Butler
4/18/2014 2:27:21 PM
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Whilst we are in the midst of the most enthralling title race in the BPL era, towards the foot of the table things of an ominous nature appear to be taking shape.

If reports of apparent bullying at Villa Park and training ground punch-ups at Swansea were not bad enough for a pair of clubs whose recent form has dragged them into the end of season relegation dog fight, then what to make of the alleged leaking of Cardiff's starting XI ahead of their crucial encounter with fellow strugglers, Crystal Palace on April 5th.

Almost a week would pass before we got the first indications of what Cardiff are now alleging. By this point the club had fired a member of staff and suspended another over the leaking of Solskjaer's team to their relegation rival. 

Yesterday the BBC revealed Cardiff, in the form of a five page letter through their lawyers, had filed a formal complaint to the BPL.  Within the letter it is alleged they have proof Palace knew the Cardiff team the day before the match.

The central character in this saga appears to be Crystal Palace's sporting director Iain Moody, who was head of player recruitment at Cardiff until he was fired without explanation back in November.

Cardiff further allege in their letter Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis was aware Moody, through his contacts at the Welsh club, was attempting to obtain the Cardiff team. 

To his credit, in an interview with a UK tabloid, Moody dismissed the allegations and referred to them as, ‘extraordinarily untrue.'

Now add this into the mix.

Dougie Freedman, who played for Palace in the mid-1990's and went on to manage the club during the 2011/12 season, is alleged by Cardiff to have mistakenly received a text message from Moody on April 4th.

The text explicitly detailed Cardiff's starting XI and is also reported to name the source of the leak as Cardiff midfield player, Aron Gunnarsson.

Freedman, who had met Cardiff boss Solskjaer when they took their coaching licenses, remained in touch with the ex-Manchester United player and called him after receiving the text.

Solskjaer is reported to have not registered any formal complaint but had words with Pulis when they exchanged their team sheets an hour before April 5th's kick off between the two clubs.

For its part the BPL, through a spokesperson, said it will stage an investigation. Cardiff is demanding the 3-0 result is nulled.

In today's pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow's match against West Ham, Tony Pulis said he was willing to meet the league over the matter.  

In some circles Pulis is being mentioned as a candidate for the manager of the year following the incredible turn around at Selhurst Park. When the ex-Stoke boss took over in late November the club were firmly rooted at the bottom of the table, remarkably they now sit in mid-table respectability with the 11thspot.

No matter what the outcome of the investigation, the fact this is part of the public debate casts significant embarrassment for a league and comes at such a pivotal time of the season.

There is no precedent. Comparisons though are been drawn to 2007's relegation battle - when West Ham and Sheffield United were embroiled in legal action following West Ham's last day relegation escape, which consigned this season's FA Cup semi-finalists to the Championship.

Carlos Tevez, who was on loan to West Ham, scored the winner at Old Trafford that day in a match they had to win. However, as the Argentine striker's rights at that time were owned by a 3rd party this was in serious contravention of BPL rules.

West Ham was found guilty and fined £5m by the league. Sheffield United took the matter to court and eventually received £18m in compensation from the London club.

For the three clubs who will suffer relegation this season to ease their drop into the Championship they will receive so termed ‘parachute payments' amounting to approximately $100m over a four-year period.

Even so, and as ever increasing amounts of money pours into English football's top tier, it becomes inevitable clubs threatened by relegation will use any means necessary to secure their place in the most lucrative domestic league in all of world football.

Over to you Mr. Scudamore.

CITY WORLD BEATERS
Just as reports surface UEFA will shortly put the 2012 BPL Champions on the Financial Fair Play naughty step it was revealed in the week by the splendid Sporting Intelligence website no team on planet sport pays more in compensation to their players. Sporting Intelligence's annual Global Sports Salaries Survey is carried out in association with ESPN The Magazine. Manchester City players earn on average over $10m a season. Ominously for MLS the New York Yankees came in second place. NYCFC joins the league next season.

MANU NYSE
Staying with the Manchester, New York, and money theme, shares in Manchester United climbed over 10% Wednesday. The shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, had been trending down since David Moyes' took over last July. The dramatic move to the upside is thought to be related to the club's next apparel deal that is expected to net the club well over $1 billion over a 10-year period. With first option to renew, Nike remain the favourites to secure the deal but reports indicate Manchester United are also in discussions with Adidas and PUMA. 

ANNUAL BPL GONGS
Earlier today the Professional Footballers Association [PFA] released the nominations for this season's Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool dominates the six man shortlist for the main award. Led by captain Steven Gerrard, who won the award in 2006, Suarez and Sturridge also feature. A name that also appears on the shortlist and would have been on no one's thoughts before the season kicked off, is Southampton's Adam Lallana.

The 24-year old Sturridge, who has scored 20 league goals this season, is also named in the Young Players category.  Winners will be announced at the PFA's banquet April 27th.

Cardiff Vs Stoke City - Live on the TSN2 Saturday 9:50am et/6:50am pt

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca 
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

 

Aron Gunnarsson (Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
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