Leeds begin tough task of winning back points

April 16, 2008

Leeds have no more than a 30 per cent chance of getting their 15-point penalty overturned by an independent tribunal, according to sports law specialist Richard Cramer.

A three-man arbitration panel will consider the validity of the sanction imposed on Leeds by the Football League at the start of the season when the tribunal gets under way behind closed doors in London today.

Leeds' lawyers will attempt to convince the panel the League acted outside their jurisdiction when docking the points as punishment for allegedly breaking competition rules on insolvency.

Cramer, of Leeds-based solicitors Cramer Richards, said Leeds had effectively waived their rights of appeal when they agreed to return to the Football League back in August.

'Leeds signed a legally-binding document effectively waiving any entitlement to challenge for the 15 points,' Cramer said. 'It was signed off by Leeds United who knew full well that if they wanted to participate in League One and remain part of the Football League, they had to accept the 15 points (deduction).

'So Leeds have got to demonstrate early on to the three-man panel that there is very good reason why this 15 points can be challenged. I put their chances at about 30 per cent.'

If the sanction is overturned and Leeds are given all their points back, the consequences in League One could be far-reaching.

Leeds would be thrust into the second automatic promotion place at the expense of Carlisle with three matches remaining and several clubs, Doncaster among them, have already threatened legal action.

The League's sanction will be reviewed by a three-man panel, consisting of retired High Court judge Sir Philip Otton, former Premier League chief executive Peter Leaver and experienced lawyer Peter Cadman.

The tribunal could last for up to three days and the ruling is expected to be made public before the Yorkshire club's League One clash at Millwall on Saturday.

Cramer added: 'There's been talk of them getting five points back and all sorts of different permutations, but I don't think the tribunal will have made their minds up at all.

'Because up to half a dozen other clubs could be affected by the decision, I think Leeds' percentage chances are going down and not up. But you can never tell in an arbitration. There may be some very good, strong legal reasons why Leeds do have a good claim.

'But there's a big hurdle to overcome to start with and that's that they signed the document and then they have got to show that the Football League acted unreasonably, acted arbitrarily and acted capriciously and that's difficult.'

Leeds were deducted 15 points before the start of this season for failing to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

A majority of more than 75 per cent of fellow Football League clubs then voted to uphold the sanction.

Chairman Ken Bates had been forced to put the club in the hands of administrators last May due to debts of around £35million.

Leeds have denied any wrongdoing and agreed to an arbitration hearing after initially serving the Football League with a High Court writ.