Date: 6th May 2007 at 12:21am
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Manchester United and Everton could receive a fine or even a points deduction for breaking rules in the Howard deal.

Tim Howard spent the first part of the season at Everton on loan but in February, his move turned permanent. United insisted on a clause that would not allow him to play in this season’s only remaining game against the Toffees.

However, Premier League rules do not allow these clauses in the case of any permanent deal. Loan agreements can include such agreements so the question is whether Howard is on loan or is he an Everton player?

It’s complicated. The deal was sealed in February so the transfer window had closed by that time. For me, it’s only logical that the permanent move would be only completed in the summer but I wonder what the League would make of it.

The News of the World quoted a Premier League spokesman as saying the league officials will contact both clubs ‘in a matter of urgency’. The man added that if the existence of the clause was proved, it would most definitely be a case of third party interference – the very crime West Ham had been punished for earlier this week.

Of course, looking at the precedent that judgement set, we do not need to worry about a points deduction. West Ham, accused of lying about the acquisition of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, were fined 5.5 million pounds, a hefty amount but their case was much more serious. Two players who should never have been signed played for the Hammers a number of games whereas in our case it’s just about a single match. (which, incidentally, we had won through a horrible blunder by deputy keeper Turner…)

Anyway, my opinion is this: you surely cannot sign players between January 31 and July 1. Pre-contract agreements can be made but that’s all. So Howard is effectively on loan at Everton at the moment that means we were entitled to activate that clause. It’s possible that the story is more difficult than this, of course but browsing through every details of the news published when the Howard deal had been announced, I could not find more information.