Cardiff City and Fulham were relegated after losses on Saturday. Norwich City look set to follow. In a move that showcased their desperation, the three sides were prepared to bring a case against Sunderland, hoping to dock points from the Black Cats, who currently sit 17th.
See, back in the fall, Sunderland fielded South Korean player Ji Dong-won four times, earning a point for their efforts. It turned out the club hadn’t received the proper international clearance to allow Ji to play. After an investigation, the Premier League chose not to dock points from Sunderland, but instead slapped them with a six-figure fine.
According to reports from The Guardian, Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff, labeled the “Gang of Three”, sent a letter to the league asking that the case be reviewed. It seems that in the past, when these violations occurred, points were docked from the clubs found in breach of the rules. The Gang of Three want to know why this wasn’t the case for Sunderland.
But it will be nearly impossible for the Gang of Three to mount a successful action. Because there is no mechanism available to appeal the Premier League’s decision, the case would have to go through the courts, likely at a vast expense to the clubs – who’ve just lost out on top-flight money. It’s also highly unlikely that the case would be heard before the start of the next Premier League season.
And even if the case did go before a judge, the Gang of Three are likely to lose. The Premier League acted within the rule, which states:
Any club found to have played an ineligible player in a match shall have any points gained deducted from its record and have levied upon it a fine. The company may vary this decision in respect of the points gained only where the ineligibility was due to the failure to obtain an international transfer certificate.
As Sunderland only picked up one point, and Ji was used primarily as a substitute in those four games, it was deemed appropriate to levy a fine rather than dock the Black Cats a point.
Finally, as Sunderland currently sit three points above Norwich, and still have two games to play, it seems highly unlikely that even the loss of the point would have saved any of the Gang of Three.