Hammers hit for £5.5m

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West Ham have been hit with an unprecedented fine of £5.5 million for indiscretions in relation to the purchase of Argentine duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

At a Premier League-led hearing in London today, a three-man panel handed down the decision to club officials which features no points deduction.

Another interesting development from the hearing is that the panel have given permission to the Premier League to cancel the registration of Tevez.

While officials stopped short of saying this option would be exercised, it seems that until the matter of the player's ownership is resolved he will not be able to play for the club again.

The suggestion is, however, that once the Upton Park outfit secure total ownership of the 23-year-old he will be permitted to appear in whatever games remain this season.

In a statement West Ham said they "received a fair hearing" but that legal advice would be taken before they decide whether or not to appeal, having admitted some degree of guilt over the matter.

Indeed, the written decision also intimated that the record fine could have been higher without such a plea.

Nevertheless, West Ham maintained their innocence of certain charges.

The statement continued: "The club's submission that the contracts gave no actual influence to any third party was accepted by the commission.

"The club has not been found guilty of fielding an unregistered player and speculation about a likely points deduction has proved to be unfounded.

"The club regrets the fact that they fell foul of the FA Premier League regulations, but the new owners of the club now want to focus on matters on the pitch and remaining in the Premier League. The threat of a points deduction has now been removed and the club's fate remains in its own hands.

"The club believes that promotion and relegation issues should be decided on the pitch and we are pleased that the commission agree with that view."

In a statement of their own, the Premier League thanked the commission for their "thorough and professional consideration of this complex matter".

"We fully respect their decision and the detailed judgment will provide further clarity for all clubs," the statement read.

"Now this issue has been concluded the Premier League looks forward to continuing the otherwise good relationship we have always enjoyed with West Ham United."

Despite the hefty fine and the potential loss of their star striker, the decision will be of some relief to Hammers fans who had feared that a loss of points could be levied against the club.

This would have virtually condemned the Hammers to relegation from the Premiership this season.

West Ham are still heavily involved in a fight for their top-flight survival and are currently three points adrift of the safety zone.

They face a vital league fixture this weekend when they travel to relegation rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday, which meant the hearing was a somewhat unwelcome distraction.

The charges against the club related to the deal agreed by former chairman Terry Brown for the acquisition of the Argentinean pair, who joined from Brazilian side Corinthians on transfer deadline day last summer.

Both players are part-owned by Kia Joorabchian, who had expressed an interest in purchasing the east London club at the time of the transfers.

And after an investigation into the case, the Premier League decided to charge West Ham with a breach of the rules governing player transfers on February 3rd.

"It is the board's complaint that there were agreements in relation to both these transfers that enabled third parties to acquire the ability materially to influence the club's policies and/or the performance of its teams," a statement from the Premier League read at the time.

"Furthermore at the time of the transfer agreements for both Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, and until 24 January 2007, West Ham failed to disclose the third-party agreements to the Premier League and/or deliberately withheld these agreements from the Premier League."

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