Clubs normally face a points deduction whenever they field an ineligible player, as Sunderland did this fall. Last month, the Black Cats got off light after playing South Korean Ji Dong-won four times (and gaining one point) without the proper international clearance. Surprisingly, Sunderland got off with a six-figure fine.
In the face of relegation, Cardiff, Fulham, and Norwich City are now prepared to fight the Premier League’s lenient penalty. According to reporting by The Guardian, the self-titled “Gang of Three” has sent a letter to the league asking the punishment be reconsidered, noting that a long list of previous violations throughout the Football League has generally resulted in a points deduction.
Sunderland’s Saturday win at Old Trafford helped confirm relegation for Cardiff and Fulham, both clubs having lost their Round 37 matches. Norwich, currently three points behind Guy Poyet’s team, is at Chelsea on Sunday.
The Observer can reveal that the first steps have been taken by a self-appointed “Gang of Three” to initiate proceedings about the way Sunderland were let off with a six-figure fine despite fielding Ji Dong-won in four league games, spread over seven weeks, earlier this season. Norwich and Cardiff have enlisted Fulham’s support to challenge the league, and a legal letter has been sent on behalf of the three clubs arguing that the offence was serious enough to merit a points deduction …
The lawyers also note that Poyet has admitted being surprised the punishment was not heavier, and that Sunderland’s manager has stated publicly that Southampton should have been awarded the victory when Ji played in the 1-1 draw at [Southampton] in August.
As The Guardian notes, the wording of the league’s rules means it can impose whatever penalty it deems fit. Unless it decides to revisit last month’s ruling, the lenient punishment could leave relegation up to the courts, should Sunderland fail to pull away.
If the Black Cats continue the strong play that led the team to safety, they’ll be able to put enough room between themselves and 18th to make the appeal irrelevant. If, however, Sunderland can’t close strong, whichever club finishes 18th looks set to lawyer up.