It could be a pub quiz question. Name the sportsman: He is a footballer. Born in 1964. Played in Belgium, France and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. Oh, and he just happened to be the player at the centre of the most fundamental ruling in the history of football transfers. I know this one! Jean-Marc Bosman.
The "Bosman ruling," as it has come to be known, was a decision made in 1995 by the European Court of Justice concerning one of the fundamental principles of labour laws in the European Union (EU). It prohibited the restriction of EU nationals from moving freely between football clubs at the end of the contracts.
Indulge me for a moment—but do you remember Quantum Leap where Dr. Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula) played a time traveller jumping from one body to another "putting right what once went wrong?" So, let's jump forward a decade or so to the 21st century.
Name the sportsman: He is a footballer. Born in 1984. Played in Argentina and England. Oh, just happened to be the player at the centre of one of the most bizarre transfer-related stories football has seen. Step forward Carlos Tevez.
In August 2006, Tevez, moved to West Ham United under a cloud of confusion. He signed with West Ham and was paraded in front of the Upton Park crowd, but it appeared his player registration was owned by Media Sports Investments (MSI)—the legacy of a deal done between Corinthians (Tevez's previous club) and MSI.
The 2006-2007 EPL season played itself out against the backdrop of legal proceedings which led to West Ham United being fined £5.5 million for breaching EPL rules over his signing (and that of Tevez's fellow Argentine, Javier Mascherano).
Changes to legal and third party agreements were made after which opened the door for Tevez to appear for West Ham in the run-in.
Tevez played a big part in West Ham avoiding relegation from the EPL that season—even scoring the only goal in their final match of the season at Manchester United, leading to the relegation of Sheffield United instead.
It has been readily accepted that West Ham should have had points deducted instead of receiving a fine—so Tevez's spectacular contribution should represent no more than a footnote in the history books of West Ham's relegation that season.
The EPL ducked their responsibility when it came to the points deduction—it has been suggested that the EPL reckoned West Ham's league position was always perilous, so a points deduction would have made little difference to their relegation battle anyway.
Tevez moved to Manchester United in the summer, but there had already been rumblings of discontent bubbling at Sheffield United. Yet, another legal battle ensued with Sheffield United failing to be re-instated to the EPL.
Sheffield United then moved for a financial settlement which was settled out-of-court in their favour—to the tune of £20 million over a five-year period.
Phew. It's over. But no, the case which led to Sheffield United's out-of-court settlement has set a dangerous precedent.
Former Sheffield United manager has publicly stated he and his advisors are exploring the possibility of suing West Ham over lost earnings and losing the status of being an EPL manager.
Similar lawsuits are being considered by a number of Sheffield United players.
It has also emerged that Fulham football club are considering suing West Ham for the revenue lost after finishing below West Ham in the final EPL standings.
Where will it end?
I recall the Ben Johnson scandal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics—being stripped of his gold medal and awarding it to Carl Lewis. But it has since been revealed that Lewis and Linford Christie (later awarded the Silver medal after finishing behind Lewis in that final), amongst others have been banned for drug use.
Do we start tampering with record books, medal tables, competition results because of this? Of Johnson, Lewis, Christie, and even Dennis Mitchell, only Johnson was stripped of his medals and records.
Back to the Tevez saga. Yes, the EPL was disgraceful in how they handled the saga; the EPL made the wrong decision in fining West Ham (rather than deducting points) in the 2006-07 season, and EPL chief Richard Scudamore should be called to account, but the Tevez boat has well and truly sailed. Let it lie.
Do we then entertain Wigan, who finished just below Fulham in the EPL standings, to make a similar claim to that of Fulham?
What about any teams that were on the receiving end of bad results when playing against West Ham where Tevez scored a critical goal or made a key pass?
Would they have finished higher than their final positions in the league?
What about teams that Sheffield United played the following season? Would their opponents have fared any differently against a relegated West Ham side?
Tugging on these perceived unjust ends will surely only serve to unravel the tapestry of the EPL's history and integrity.
There are many lessons to be learned over this saga, but let us not indulge everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. We can take these lessons and swallow their bitter taste—for the future.
We always want to do the right thing, but unlike Dr. Beckett in Quantum Leap, some wrongs simply should not be put right.