The end at last?

IT WAS supposed to be the football court case of the century, writes DAVE EVANS. Sheffield United were demanding �45million, while West Ham were going to vigorously defend their innocence. But in the end, perhaps predictably, the lawyers took over, any

IT WAS supposed to be the football court case of the century, writes DAVE EVANS.

Sheffield United were demanding �45million, while West Ham were going to 'vigorously defend' their innocence.

But in the end, perhaps predictably, the lawyers took over, any thoughts of what happened on the football field were forgotten and both clubs agreed a deal that would see them come out the other side with their dignity intact.

This has been an ill-tempered, bitter dispute from the moment that Sheffield United were relegated on the same day as Carlos Tevez was scoring the winner to keep West Ham up at Old Trafford.


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Already fined �5.5million for misleading the Premier League over the third-party influences concerning the signing of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, West Ham were taken to the high court by the Blades, where the original decision was upheld.

However, an arbitration tribunal then ruled in Sheffield United's favour and despite an attempt to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, the last throw of the dice had been cast.

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However, West Ham fans will certainly be breathing a sigh of relief if the scale and timeframe of the compensation is to be believed.

Figures put it between �15m and �25million to be paid over five years, and though it is a substantial sum considering West Ham have already been punished, it could have been a lot worse.

In the joint statement issued by the two clubs, you would think that they were the best of friends, instead of the mortal enemies they have been for the past two years.

Sheffield United chairman, Kevin McCabe, said: "We are happy and satisfied with the settlement with West Ham. Throughout the finalisation of the terms for the agreement, the discussions were friendly, co-operative and in the best of spirit with both the Blades and Hammers advisory teams.

"We are two clubs with a fantastic football history who now want to move on and focus on the business of playing football."

Perhaps if they had done that at the end of the 2006-07 season, they would not have been relegated!

The extraordinary decision made by a lawyer that one player can have such a significant effect on a whole campaign of football, is one that could have far-reaching consequences over the coming seasons.

The performance of Tevez during the 3-0 thumping West Ham suffered at the hands of United at Bramall Lane in April of 2007, presumably had no bearing on the arbitration case.

West Ham chief executive Scott Dux-bury also expressed his satisfaction with the final negotiation - he must have been breathing a huge sigh of relief.

"For everyone concerned, the time was right to draw a line under this whole episode," he said.

"We have had very positive discussions over a number of days with Sheffield United and acknowledge their willingness to resolve this in the best interests of both clubs."

So much for the vigorous defence, but in truth this was perhaps the best West Ham could have come out of a perilous situation with.

It also opens the door for potential buyers to come in before the start of the summer transfer window, while the payment timeframe mea-ns that a mass exodus of players will not be necessary.

After nearly two years of wrangling and expensive legal battles, it seems that things are finally resolved, between the clubs, but if you think that is likely to be the end of the matter, you may get a rude awakening.

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