Fulham’s bid to oust Sir David Richards as Premier League chairman looks set to be dealt with by an independent arbitration process after the High Court today ordered a stay of the club’s legal proceedings against him.
The Cottagers have been seeking to have Richards removed – or at the very least banned from involvement with any transfers – after accusing him of scuppering their attempt to sign Peter Crouch from Portsmouth in July 2009.
Fulham launched legal action against both Richards and the Premier League over the matter, but today saw the latter pair successfully apply to halt those proceedings while arbitration takes place.
It is not yet known if the club have sought permission to appeal against the decision.
In granting the Premier League and Richards application of a stay, Mr Justice Vos said in his judgment: “The arbitrators will have adequate powers to deal with Fulham’s complaint properly, fairly and satisfactorily, and it would be extremely desirable for all concerned if they were permitted to do so without further delay.”
Technically, the arbitration proceedings will have the power to force Richards’ removal but today’s decision will nevertheless be seen as a blow to Fulham’s hopes on that front.
The decision of the arbitration process is binding, although Fulham may still attempt to take the matter further if the verdict does not go their way.
The club claim Richards interfered with their bid to buy Crouch, who ended up joining Tottenham for £9million, £2million less than they were reportedly willing to pay.
Richards allegedly intervened because Spurs were prepared to offer Portsmouth £9million up front at a time when the south-coast club’s very existence was under threat, while Fulham were thought to be planning to pay in instalments.
The Cottagers believe Richards broke both Football Association and Premier League rules and failed to act fairly by promoting the interests of one club over another.
Though he accepts he did speak with Portsmouth’s then chief executive Peter Storrie – a personal friend – Richards denies he sought to assist Tottenham.
He was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Premier League inquiry but Fulham felt otherwise and called in the lawyers, an unprecedented step from a shareholder club against an organisation’s chairman.
If he is ousted, it would send shockwaves through the English game.
The former Sheffield Wednesday supremo has been Premier League chairman for 11 years and is also vice-chairman of the FA, chairman of Club England and is on the FA’s international committee.