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Bramhall Lane Battle Damages Football

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 19/03/2002

MEDIA reports suggest that Sheffield United could be deducted 10 points for the "Battle of Bramall Lane" on Saturday with accusations of "fixing" and cheating being thrown around.

If it happens, it could throw another team into the relegation battle zone, which may assist the Mariners.

However, history shows that the FA have rarely acted in the way one would expect and it will probably depend eventually on exactly how much "pull" Sheffield United have with the FA.

9 points is the maximum any team have been deducted to my knowledge and it would be very surprising if the FA went that far with Sheffield United.

The club have already begun a damage control exercise with statements that the players will be fined heavily and/or transferred.

Some of the accusations suggest that the management side of Sheffield United conspired to get the game called off by telling players to feign injury after all the substitutes were used thereby reducing them to 6 men on the field and the referee having no option but to abandon the game. That will be an allegation that the FA will be investigating.

There can be no doubt that two of the players who were sent off will face lengthy suspensions for violent conduct and the club fined thousands of pounds and the game being awarded to West Brom.

But is that enough?

If the allegations being made are proved it very clearly indicates the lack of concern that the club have for the game of football itself, and that is where the danger lies.

Football has developed over the course of a hundred years or more from being a sporting event to a big business enterprise with club shares being traded on the stock exchange and city financiers calling the tune.

As with any enterprise that involves large amounts of money, there will be those who will use any means to stay in the race to achieve richness. I am not suggesting for one moment that this applies to Sheffield United but the events on Saturday, do illustrate the pressures on clubs in this race.

Getting a game abandoned, because a club is losing, is game fixing. There is no other description that fits better. It is as equally bad as bribing officials or fixing floodlights to fail at a crucial time in a match. It is a corrupt act and if the FA are satisfied that a club is guilty of this they should slam this particular door shut and ensure that justice is seen to be done.

The deduction of points in these cases may not be enough.

In Sheffield United's case, if any allegations are proved, then the club should be placed in a position of not looking at how many points they can lose, but whether they have a future in the football league at all.

The beautiful game is fast losing its beauty and the Football Association has a duty to ensure that the penalties for dirty work act as a deterrent. Not a slap on the wrist.

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