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Did Sheffield United violate Rule U18?

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Graham, a SL reader, asks if the contractual stipulation that prevented Steve Kabba from playing for Watford against Sheffield United was a breach of FAPL’s rule U18.

For previous discussions on the subject, please read this and this – both articles discuss the initial Commission findings and the problems with those findings.

Rule U18, if you remember, states:

“No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract to acquire the ability materially to influence its policies or the performance of its teams in league matches or in any (other) competitions.”

Here’s what I know of the Steve Kabba situation – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong:

On 28th April 2007, Sheffield United played Watford at home. Steve Kabba had transfered in the 2007 January transfer window to Watford, and both the Sheffield United club website and the Watford club website state that there was a clause in Steve Kabba’s contract which prevented him from facing his former employers that season.

From the Sheff Utd site:

Meanwhile, in the Watford camp, striker Steven Kabba is ineligible to play in this weekend’s fixture due to a clause in his £500,000 move from Bramall Lane in January.

From the Watford site:

Ex-Sheffield United striker Steve Kabba is ruled out of the game – it was a feature in his contract when he signed for the ‘Orns in the January transfer window.

Isn’t this equal to allowing Sheffield United to materially influence the team selection of a league match? Wouldn’t that make it a breach of rule U18?

For the record, I think that Sheffield United should be allowed to protect their interests in this way.

However, is this a breach of rule U18 or not? And if so, how does that impact the Tevez ruling, not to mention the subsequent Sheffield United arbitration?

By the way, Sheffield United won that game 1-0.

Comments (15)

  1. the same thing happened when blackburn brought robbie savage from birmingham. he didn’t play the next game between the clubs because when negotiations where on going mark hughes gave is word, the same thing might of happened here and the clubs just don’t want anyone to know.

  2. See what you’re saying.Looks like Fergie ( and plenty of managers before him) should be in the dock regarding Tim Howard – how crucial was that deal.Watford didn’t have to agree to the contract if they weren’t happy with it.Although I don’t agree with it.

  3. If anybody violated rule U18 in the same way as West Ham it’s Watford. They were the team that agreed to any such clause, should it have existed.

  4. Should that read Graham, a West Ham fan?

    Loan and permanent deals have been done like this for years whereby one of the clauses when agreeing to the sale of a player is that he is ineligible to play against his former club.

    This is nothing new at all and has been an accepted practice.

    If it is ‘wrong’ then it should be stopped, but it has always been an acceptable part of a transfer deal and nothing new.

    What West Ham did was conceal a clause they knew was wrong.

  5. Also, note that any such agreement was discussed openly and publicly at the time of the transfer and in the build up to the match. West Ham were punished not only for entering in to their agreement with MSI but also for the “deceit and deception” in covering it up afterwards.

  6. dodgeyblade – fergie and david moyes had a verbal agreement, not a contractual one.

    bob – it says on both sites that it’s a contractual agreement

    Norton – please note that West were charged on two accounts – not acting in good faith towards other clubs (B13) and potentially enabling a third party to have control over their team / club affairs (rule U18).

    So my question is – is this agreement similar to the West Ham agreement? If yes, we have a problem :)

  7. Ahmed,

    It is nice to see that your website is now trying to report based on facts rather than supposition, idle gossip and personal agendas. Many other websites continue to attack West Ham and wouldn’t want to be seen on the other side of the fence just yet…until next Wednesday I expect!!

    It seems that something is awry with such agreements as this. I think it’s to do with the ambiguity of rule U18, which was acknowledged at the Premier League AGM. By admitting that the rule is ambiguous (as agreed by 18 Premier League clubs), it more or less makes the West Ham “rule break” a matter of interpretation rather than definitive breaking of the rule.

    On that basis, Sheffield United, Watford, Man U and all the other clubs who have entered into such an agreement, verbal or otherwise, could also be seen as breaking the rule – if that is the chosen interpretation.

    If anything, as a West Ham supporter, having read weeks and weeks of bullsh*t published about my club, this article is at least quite funny.

  8. If Rule U18 says you cannot put a clause into an agreement to say a player cannot player against the selling club during the rest of that season then Sheffield United are at fault putting it in not Watford for signing it!

  9. U18 =

    “No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract to acquire the ability materially to influence its policies or the performance of its teams in league matches or in any (other) competitions.”

    We aren’t a party to a contract, the only parties are Steven Kabba and Watford. Unless we had a seperate contractual agreement with Watford, stating he couldn’t play.

    Even if this was the case, I don’t see them punishing Kia?

  10. Just a reminder its usually the norm for a player who has recently signed to not face his former club.
    Young for Villa v Watford, Rooney for Man Utd v Everton (although this was pre signing), Andy Cole for Man Utd v Newcastle etc etc

  11. I believe this offence is much worse than the administration eror West Ham have been punished for.

    Sheffield United have written a clause into Kabba’s contract preventing him from playing against them. He played 14 out of the 15 remaining games, including against West Ham. They have deliberately breached the rules.

    Campaign for Fairness??? Hypocrites of the highest order.

  12. Interesting that people think that because its always been done this way then its within the rules. Strange then that all of West Hams january signings played against their former clubs. LBM against fulham, Neill against Blackburn, davenport against spurs… it would seem that, whilst many clubs bend these rules, not all do.

  13. Hi all, also when a player signs for a new club, and his new club face his old club a week later then i suppose it’s ok to have a gentlemans agreement, but kabba was not due to face his former club for another 3/4 months! Thats interference. sheff utd are guilty and should be docked 3 points or take a 5million fine. your choice !

  14. The actual rule is in place to prevent mass effect on another clubs line-ups in sport. The repercussions on match fixing and betting are huge.

    Transfer rules dictate a club holding a players registration cannot be influenced by a 3rd party (1st party Player, 2nd Party Club, 3rd Party by rule another club, not normally a company).

    The Ruling against West Ham Utd was actually after the game took place, a full 6 days. This means that Watford and Sheffield Utd had no idea about Rule U18 till a week after the game.

    West Ham can argue that this would demonstrate most clubs were unaware of the rule’s importance and thus, both Sheffield Utd and Watford have not given all documentation to the FAPL, as they thought it wasn’t needed.

    The timeline is important as Clubs had no idea of the rule normally as we all didn’t until the West Ham tribunal. Hence McCabe stating he felt fairly sure they had given all the info to the FAPL. Not totally sure. Watford aren’t part of the FAPL so can’t be affected by revealing all the info by the way!!

  15. Foxy?

    Shef utd were in breach of PL rules.

    ‘Even if this was the case, I don’t see them punishing Kia?’

    How can Kia be punished, he’s not accountable to the Premier League, he’s not a Premier League club!!

    I fully expect a £5.5 million fine.

    Don’t worry, we’ll give you some help.

    Jagielka 500k?