That’ll be another 32p, please

IT’S the level of detail in the reports of Sheffield United’s compensation claim against West Ham over That Carlos Tevez Thing which is particularly startling.

The Daily Mail, for instance, managed to come up with a figure for Blades chairman Kevin McCabe’s claim down to the penny.

“A compensation figure has yet to be set,” the report states, “but Sportsmail can reveal Sheffield United are demanding £30,396,897.32 after they were relegated from the Barclays Premier League at the end of the 2006-07 season and a Tevez-inspired West Ham stayed up.”

The Guardian and the Mirror, among others, also came up with this figure, so it hasn’t been picked out of the air. It suggests that a document outlining Sheffield United’s claim has found its way into the hands of a reporter.

The same Mail report gave a detailed breakdown of that claim, which puts Sheffield United’s lost earnings as a result of relegation at £21,788,795.

On top of that, there’s the £4million lost as a result of having to sell defender Phil Jagielka cheaply due to a clause in his contract activated following relegation.

“The rest of the claim for damages,” the report continues, “is based on season ticket sales, sponsorship, catering, club merchandising and ‘lost business opportunities’.”

All of which seems fair enough. West Ham were extraordinarily fortunate not to be given a points deduction – and therefore relegated – in 2007 after they were found guilty of breaking Premier League rules regarding third-party ownership of players in the signing of Tevez from Corinthians in 2006.

Sheffield United’s relegation was so controversial that people with far better connections in football than me (not difficult) were wondering aloud whether the Blades might have been reinstated that summer in a 21-team Premier League.

That didn’t happen, and it won’t happen now, despite the decision of an independent tribunal to find in the Blades’ favour over the affair last Friday.

But as West Ham plan their next move (perhaps an attempt to reduce the compensation payout based on the idea that Sheffield United’s appalling form under Bryan Robson in the months following relegation was entirely self-inflicted), one question continues to nag away at me. Where does the 32p in the claim come from?

Football finance, in my experience, operates in pounds only. When Nottingham Forest bought Trevor Francis from Birmingham in 1979, Brian Clough didn’t want his new signing to have the pressure of being Britain’s first £1million player. So he paid £999,999 – £1 short of £1million, not a penny.

That suggests the 32p comes from the merchandising side of the claim. But I cannot think of anything you can buy at a football ground that costs 32p. So I had a look at the website of Sheffield United’s club shop in search of inspiration. And the cheapest item I could find on there was an official Blades car tax disc holder, priced £2.

There were a few items priced £x.99 – such as a small toy monkey at £4.99, a beanie hat at £7.99 and a book about Tony Currie for £19.99. Sell enough of those items, and you will eventually get to a figure that ends with 32p.

But that suggests a level of detail in Sheffield United’s marketing forecasts which borders on the frightening.

So for now, I’ll settle on the only logical explanation: 32p was the cost of a first-class stamp in 2007, and so that was how much it cost the Blades to post Neil Warnock his P45 following his departure from the club in the wake of relegation.

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