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July 2007

Surely SIM mistake

When I read that an Indian-born doctor living in Australia had been charged with giving "reckless support" to terrorism for giving someone a SM card, it looked rather odd but I supposed they must have had some more compelling evidence. Er, no.

At first the British police claimed that this SIM card had been found in the burning jeep that was crashed into the doors of Glasgow Airport last month.  Then they admitted that it had actually been found in a house in Liverpool where two of the suspects Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed had been living.  Mohammed Haneef is their second cousin and had stayed with them when he was in the UK.  He had given them his SIM card when he left the country (as it would be no use to him). 

This is part of a piece from last Wednesday's Guardian (The Australia connection) which alerted me to the fact that he was still in custody:

Haneef was put under surveillance by the Australian authorities, and then arrested 47 hours after the Glasgow incident in the departure lounge at Brisbane International Airport. He was about to board Singapore Airlines flight 246 on a one-way ticket back to India. He claimed he was on his way home to see his wife, Firdous Arshiya, who had just given birth to their daughter there.

The police suspected that his hasty departure was down to him having had some involvement, or knowledge of, the British terror plot, and 12 days later he was charged. At a magistrate's hearing to determine whether he should be allowed bail, the police revealed their case against him. A mobile phone Sim card that Haneef had left behind in the UK had been found in the burnt-out Jeep at Glasgow; he had admitted sharing a house in Liverpool with the two Ahmeds; and he had not given a satisfactory explanation of why he had suddenly decided to leave Australia.

The bail application was expected to fail, but the magistrate, Jacqui Payne, was underwhelmed by the facts set out by police. Noting that there was no direct evidence linking the 27-year-old to the British attacks, she ordered that he be freed, but that his passport be confiscated and that he report regularly to police.

The move took the government and the police, who had been expecting Haneef to stay in custody, by surprise. Later that day came the reaction: immigration minister Kevin Andrews said he was revoking Haneef's work visa on the grounds that he "reasonably suspected" that Haneef had been associating with persons involved in criminal conduct, namely terrorism, and that Haneef would remain in detention. Andrews also implied that there was a secret dossier of evidence against Haneef that was still being assessed and had not been made public for fear of compromising further investigations.

It is now clear that there was no "secret dossier" and he really was on his way to see his wife in India.  So he was freed, as the BBC reported on Friday:

An Indian doctor has been freed from custody in Australia after charges linked to the failed bomb attacks in the UK were droppedDr Mohamed Haneef was released into home detention while he awaits a decision on his immigration status.

The 27-year-old had his visa revoked after he was charged with giving "reckless support" to terrorism.  The charge was withdrawn on Friday after Australia's chief prosecutor admitted "a mistake has been made".

The case - which also threw new anti-terror laws under the spotlight - triggered concern from both legal and civil rights groups.

It seems that there is still some doubt about whether he will be able to stay in Australia, and the government don't seem to regret what happened (PM won't apologise to Dr Haneef )

Mr Howard said mistakes happened from time to time and when dealing with terrorism, it was better to be safe than sorry.

"Australia will not be apologising to Dr Haneef," Mr Howard told reporters in Sydney.

"Dr Haneef was not victimised and Australia's international reputation has not been harmed by this 'mis-start' to its new anti-terrorism laws."

Mr Howard said he supported the AFP and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who revoked Dr Haneef's visa earlier this month, just hours after a Brisbane court had granted him bail.

Despite the collapse of the case, Mr Andrews has refused to reinstate the visa unless the Indian national's lawyers successfully appeal against the decision in the Federal Court.

It's understandable that governments take a cautious line when it comes to anything related to terrorism, but if mistakes are made then what harm does it do to admit that you were wrong?  Especially as the error seems to have been made by the British police. 


Lost and found

Back in 2004, Readers Digest got themselves some free publicity by claiming that 4 out of 5 Hong Kong people would return a wallet to its owner if they found it (though another prominent blogger of the time doubted that this was true - see Too cynical by half).

Now they done it again with an experiment to check whether a mobile phone left in a public place would be returned to its owner.  Hong Kong didn't do so well this time around, as Reuters reports:

Reporters from the magazine Reader's Digest planted 960 "lost" cell phones in 30 public places in 32 cities around the world to test people's reactions in a cell phone honesty test.

They rang the phone as people walked past and watched to see if people would answer the phone, take the phone and attempt to call someone in the pre-programmed contacts later, or simply pocket it.

The most honest city in the survey turned out to be the smallest city in the group, Slovenia's capital Ljubljana, where 29 of 30 cell phones were returned.

But bigger cities showed they also had trustworthy citizens with Canada's largest city, Toronto, coming second with 28 of 30 phones returned, followed by Seoul, South Korea, and Stockholm in Sweden.

The Asian cities of Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur didn't fare so well, tying for worst performance with only 13 of the 30 "lost" phones returned in each city.

Reader's Digest spokesman William Adler said while the study was not scientific, the results were interesting and indicated that people were more honest than preliminary interviews suggested.

Well,  it's certainly not scientific.  They don't say whether people pocketed the phone or simply left it where it was - clearly it is dishonest to take it, but ignoring it is unhelpful rather than dishonest.  How long did they wait for someone to pickup the phone?  Do they know whether people made any effort to return it?   

The report on the Readers Digest website seems to accuse a security guard of trying to steal one phone:

In one particularly egregious Hong Kong incident, a security guard along the city's Causeway Bay picked up a ringing phone, asked a group of smokers if it was theirs, then wrapped it in a piece of paper. Confronted by the reporter, the guard stammered, "What phone? I didn't see any phone. If you've mislaid something, report it to Lost and Found." The phone was plainly visible in his hand.

However, there is no explanation about whether this is an isolated example (were there other slightly less egregious incidents, I wonder?).  To be fair, I would assume that the correct procedure would be for the security guard to hand it over to the Lost Property department, and I don't think we can be clear whether that's what he really intended to do.

The SCMP muddies the already murky waters by being even more unscientific (HK fails finders-keepers mobile phone test - subscription required):

Adding insult to injury, in Hong Kong it is very difficult to recover a phone left in a taxi without posting a reward.

A South China Morning Post reporter who called the Taxi Union Lost Report Service Centre posing as a passenger who had left her HK$2,400, six-month-old phone in a cab was told to put up a HK$500 reward. "The phone will be worth something, and Nokia phones are worth more," an operator said. "If the driver has to deliver it back to you, you have to give them some sort of reward."

The operator said the centre received about 50 reports of lost items per day: half of them were mobile phones, and none had ever been recovered without a reward.

I don't think they mean "adding insult to injury" do they?

It's a non-story because they asked one operator rather than an official spokesman, and appear to have assumed that what they have been told must be true.  However, the statistics don't surprise me:  I have only used that service once to try to recover something I lost, and I wouldn't bother again - I had to pay them first, and I heard no more once they had my money. 

On the other hand, I don't think we can assume from this that taxi drivers are dishonest.  I have had one taxi driver return a phone I left behind (he delivered it back to me and refused any payment or reward) and someone called me when they found my wallet in a taxi.  So there certainly are plenty of honest people in Hong Kong, and phones do get returned without any reward being paid. 


Odd policies

An interesting letter from David Webb in Sunday's paper:

Transport policy in need of an overhaul

I am responding to David Beaves' question on why private motorists cannot convert to liquefied petroleum gas or buy LPG cars in Hong Kong ("Government has got it wrong on LPG policy", July 15).

No doubt the government will say it is because of a shortage of LPG stations, but this has nothing to do with it. The real reason is it subsidises the commercial road transport sector by exempting LPG from fuel duty.

The beneficiaries are the owners of taxis and, more recently, minibuses.

For the same reason, private motorists cannot buy fuel-efficient diesel-powered cars of the type which are popular in Europe.  Ultra-low-sulphur diesel is taxed in Hong Kong at only HK$1.11 per litre, while petrol is taxed at HK$6.06.

This subsidises the transport trade. To prevent private motorists benefitting from this subsidy, the government deliberately raised the emissions standards for private diesel cars above European levels, to such a point that no car would currently qualify, while continuing to allow trucks and buses to belch out smoke from older, dirtier, diesel engines.

Franchised buses are even exempt from diesel duty, keeping fares artificially low, which makes rail transport less competitive, keeps roads congested and necessitates harbour reclamation for more roads.

The government's socialist transport policy is in need of a comprehensive overhaul based on market principles.

It's somewhat ironic that the government of Hong Kong does indeed operate in what David Webb calls a "socialist" way (at least in some sectors, notably transport) whilst having a reputation for being non-interventionist.  However, I'll leave that debate for another day.

I was not aware that diesel cars were effectively banned from Hong Kong.  What a strange state of affairs.

As for LPG, I recall that taxi operators were given various incentives to covert, and the low price of the fuel is part of that policy. There is also a plan to get minibuses converted to LPG, but that isn't going so well.  The government recently claimed the policy was working (Nine-year high for Hong Kong's blue skies), which prompted much derision from green groups, but the switch to LPG has certainly had a positive impact. 

What I had expected was that after the network of LPG filling stations was established, it would become possible for private cars to use the fuel, but Webb seems to think that is not going to happen.  I suppose it's too much to hope that the government might explain its policy...   


Inconvenient (as intended)

The controversy about where pre-booked taxis can pick passengers at the airport rumbles on.  Today's SCMP reports that passengers are unhappy with the new location (Airport cab site too far: travellers):

Passengers of radio-despatched taxis complained yesterday that the location of the pickup point under a new arrangement at Chek Lap Kok airport was inconvenient.

"The new pickup point is too far away from the terminal. It is especially inconvenient when we have many pieces of luggage and travel with the elderly and children," said one traveller waiting at the new spot near Car Park No3.

New direction signboards and temporary covers were set up along the passages between Terminal 1 and Car Park No 3. The Airport Authority also deployed about 100 staff to direct passengers to the new pickup point.

But passengers were still unhappy about the new arrangement, which required them to walk farther.

"We used to be able to get in a taxi after taking a lift ride, but now we have to walk all the way from Terminal 1 to this spot near Terminal 2. It is quite troublesome," another passenger said.

Some radio-despatched taxi drivers had to direct passengers from Terminal 1 to the new pickup point as their customers got lost in the airport.

Well, that's the idea, isn't it?  They are trying to make it inconvenient! 

Last week's protest by taxi drivers achieved nothing, so I wonder if the Airport Authority will listen to their customers when they complain about this stupid arrangement.

Meanwhile, here's a good idea (Two-speed taxi meters floated):

One of the city's largest taxi unions has suggested an increase in short-distance journey fares but a decrease in long-distance fares to combat the threat from illegal discount taxis.

Lai Ming-hung, president of the Hong Kong Public Light Bus Owners' and Drivers' Association, said he made his suggestion on a radio programme yesterday because he had sought the views of those in the profession and felt he had their support.

According to his plan, the meter would begin at HK$17, but after passing the HK$50 mark, it would jump by only HK$1 every 200 metres or one minute of waiting time, rather than by HK$1.40.

"This should ensure a discount of 15 per cent for journeys usually worth HK$100, a 20 per cent discount for HK$200 journeys, and 30 per cent for journeys longer than that," Mr Lai said. "I don't drive a taxi or own a garage, so I have no interest in this matter. My suggestion should [therefore] be taken as the fairest and most objective."

Seems like an excellent suggestion.  Reducing the fare for longer trips makes sense because the cost-per-km must be lower, and it would be an effective way to compete with the "illegal discount taxis".  Increasing the cost for the shortest journeys would also be fair.

On the other hand, taxi drivers could choose to stick with existing fares and accept that they will lose some business, but the Airport Authority and the government should not be preventing this form of competition.  Unfortunately that is what usually happens here, contrary to the reputation Hong Kong seems to have acquired, so I don't hold out much hope of a sensible solution.


Go the back of the queue

If you want to save money when going to or from the airport by taxi, you can book by phone and enjoy a significant discount.  As an alternative, there are so-called "vans" that can take more people and more luggage than a normal taxi.  However, both of these services are "illegal". 

The Airport Authority recently decided to make it more difficult for these rogues to pick up passengers at the airport by stopping them from using the car park closest to Terminal 1 and forcing them to use Car Park 3, which is next to Terminal 2 (map).  The joke being, of course, that T2 is only used for departures, not arrivals. 

This prompted a protest by taxi and van drivers that blocked the airport for several hours on Saturday night.  As a result, a temporary arrangement was put in place for pick-up to be allowed at Car Park 4 near to the Regal Hotel, but now it has been "agreed" that the new arrangements will be reinstated (Battle of the cabbies ends as deal is struck on airport arrangements - subscription required):

Under the new arrangements, radio taxis will no longer be able to pick up passengers near Car Park No1 - an interim measure introduced the day after the blockade. Instead, from noon on Sunday, they will move to the more distant Car Park No3 as officials originally proposed.

The move was meant to address the grievances of meter-taxi drivers, who complained their business had been affected by the radio taxis, which they said illegally solicited passengers by offering discounts.

"The law-abiding drivers join long queues outside the airport to wait for passengers, while these discount-taxi groups just roll in and snatch our business. Is this fair to those who spend a whole day waiting?" said To Sun-tong, of the Motor Transport Workers' General Union.

About 150 taxi drivers gathered for a sit-in protest at the temporary pick-up point for radio-taxi drivers while the groups met with the Transport Department at its Wan Chai headquarters at 10am yesterday. The drivers, who had threatened more vigorous action if the talks fell through, dispersed when the resolution was announced at 12.30pm.

In a briefing outside the headquarters, Mr Wong said the new measures would allow easier law enforcement over illegal soliciting of passengers at the airport.

"The arrangement is not only a reasonable balance of the interests of different parties, but also enables police to focus their efforts on monitoring and conducting key-point inspections at the airport," he said.

"We will combat illegal soliciting activities from discount-taxi groups, and also the illegal carriage of passengers without luggage by goods vans."

Where to start?  Well, it's hard to see what harm is caused by allowing people to book taxis.  It seems a much more efficient arrangement than taxi drivers waiting in long queues.  I find it hard to believe that drivers would wait all day for a fare, but of course they are willing to wait for a while because the fares from the airport to Kowloon, HK Island and some parts of the New Territories are high enough to justify it. 

Common sense would suggest that if the queue is too long, drivers will not wait, and given that taxis have radios they must be able to find out the approximate waiting time and therefore whether it might be worthwhile going to the airport to the join the queue. 

Elsewhere in Hong Kong it is, of course, quite legal to take phone bookings and pick up passengers, and it's allowed at UK airports as well, but Hong Kong has no equivalent of the "private hire" cars (aka "mini cabs") that offer this service at Heathrow and elsewhere. 

Taxi drivers that offer discounts are doing this because they think they can earn more money that way.  Again, it's hard to see what harm this does.   Isn't competition a good thing?

Anyway, it seems that this matter isn't really resolved:

However, cargo-van groups and radio-taxi drivers remained unhappy with the new arrangement.

Kwok Chi-piu, who represented the radio-taxi groups at yesterday's meeting, said he was forced to accept the proposal as he was the odd one out among the 28 associations.

The Airport Authority has agreed to set up new direction signboards and temporary covers along the passages between Terminal 1 and Car Park No3 within the next few days to protect passengers from any bad weather.

The Hong Kong Union of Light Van Employees expressed dismay that cargo vans were not allowed to wait for business in any airport car parks, but union chairman Ip Moon-lam said it would not take further action. Goods vans may continue to unload outside Car Park No1.

I never knew there was a "Hong Kong Union of Light Van Employees".   


Vinyl is back

Somewhat surprising news about vinyl from The Guardian:

The format was supposed to have been badly wounded by the introduction of CDs and killed off completely by the ipod-generation that bought music online.

But in a rare case of cheerful news for the record labels, the latest phenomenon in a notoriously fickle industry is one nobody dared predict: a vinyl revival. Latest figures show a big jump in vinyl sales in the first half of this year, confirming the anecdotal evidence from specialist shops throughout the UK.

It comes as sales of CD singles continue to slide - and it is not being driven by technophobic middle-aged consumers. Teenagers and students are developing a taste for records and are turning away from the clinical method of downloading music on to an MP3 player.

The data, released by the UK's industry group BPI, shows that 7in vinyl sales were up 13% in the first half, with the White Stripes' Icky Thump the best seller.

Two-thirds of all singles in the UK now come out on in the 7in format, with sales topping 1m. Though still a far cry from vinyl's heyday in 1979, when Art Garfunkel's Bright Eyes alone sold that number and the total vinyl singles market was 89m, the latest sales are still up more than fivefold in five years.

Bright Eyes?  No! 

I wouldn't have thought most people would have a record deck.  Apparently that isn't a problem:

Retailers and record labels put the rising vinyl sales down to bands rediscovering the format and to music fans' enduring desire to collect. It's not unusual for fans to buy a 7in but have nothing to play it on, says Paul Williams at industry magazine Music Week. "It's about the kind of acts that have very loyal fan bases that want everything to do with that act," he says. "They maybe will buy the download to listen to, but they get the vinyl to own. It's looked at like artwork."

HMV agrees that vinyl is back from the brink, and the chain has been rapidly expanding its record racks to meet rising demand. The group's Gennaro Castaldo cites the huge popularity of "indie" bands, such as Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, which enjoy loyal followings among teenagers and students, especially during the summer festival season.

"Labels have realised that it's cool for bands to release their music on vinyl, especially in limited edition form, which makes it highly collectible," he says.

Is this another example of the way that artists can make money in the brave new world of downloads?


Too much?

There has been a lot of correspondence in the SCMP recently about PCCW's Now Broadband TV, and specifically their sports channels.  After winning the rights to the English Premier League, PCCW have created a new package of channels, for which they apparently plan to charge HK$218 per month (their current "special offer" for an 18-month contract is HK$178).  In essence, this consists of ESPN, Star Sports and the EPL coverage, plus a few odds and ends.  As the old price for ESPN & Star Sports was (I think) HK$68, you could say that they are charging HK$150 per month for the EPL coverage. 

To be fair, HK$218 is quite reasonable compared to what you would pay in the UK. You would need to subscribe to Sky Sports (£34 per month for live coverage) and Setanta Sports (£10 for the rest of the live games) and maybe BT Vision (£4 for video-on-demand), so the total would be HK$700 or more.  That means that if you are only interested in the EPL, Now TV are offering a better deal, especially as they will have more live games than are available in the UK.

The story is rather different if you are interested in more than just the EPL.  Subscribing to Sky & Setanta would give you access to a great deal more British football (e.g. the Championship and the Scottish Premier League) and many other sports as well.  In Hong Kong, you would need to pay extra (and not all of it is even available) - for example, the cricket channel on Now TV is HK$168 per month (and tends to show matches involving India & Pakistan rather than England & Australia), and if you want Championship and Scottish Premier League coverage you need TVB Pay Vision.  For other sport (including European football) you would need Cable TV as well.

Some ESPN & Star Sports subscribers are complaining because they only want to watch tennis, golf or baseball (or some other sports), and don't see why they should pay extra for EPL coverage.  Maybe that's the same reason that I can't choose to pay for the shows I want to watch on Star World or BBC Entertainment (which wouldn't cost me very much per month, come to think of it).

I think PCCW may have confused people on this one.  They have been advertising their Now Sports package as having ESPN, Star Sports, Eurosport and Eurosport News, and 'Now Sports' (whatever that might be).  PCCW don't make their own programmes, so they will surely be relying on ESPN/Star to provide the coverage, and it would be bizarre if that wasn't mainly on the ESPN & Star Sports channels.  So there's more  bad news for fans of other sports - as well as having to pay more to subscribe to ESPN & Star Sports, it seems likely that there will less time for other sports.

What else do you get?  Well, the two Eurosport channels are almost worthless (not even any live coverage of the Tour de France), and it seems reasonable to assume that the 4 'Now Sports' channels are going to be something similar to the old Cable TV Channel 63 with EPL games being shown in full round-the-clock (for anyone who just can't get enough of Portsmouth vs. Middlesbro). 

However, this is all guesswork.  PCCW seem to be saying nothing, though I did find this snippet of information about the coverage to be provided by TWI:

TWI’s deal with the Barclays Premier League offers international licensees all 380 matches each season live via satellite, including 92 in HD. It also covers weekly production of a highlights show, a midweek magazine and a Friday night preview programme - 900 hours of production in total per season.

[..] Using Tandberg’s DVB-S2 encoders and encryption system will vastly improve signal and picture quality. Nearly half the matches will be available on two satellites in each region, further improving the resilience of the delivery system.

PCCW also haven't said anything about any on-demand or HD (high definition) services, both of which will presumably cost extra on top of the HK$218 a month. 

I can see why some existing subscribers to ESPN & Star Sports are unhappy, but once the EPL deal was done I don't think it was ever going to be possible to avoid paying more.  The smart move would have been to sign up for 2 years at the old rate, though I'd be intrigued to know what happens if you just keep quiet - their normal practice is simply to renew the existing package at the same price, so if you were paying HK$68 for ESPN/Star Sports wouldn't that just continue? 


Kitchen sink

Hong Kong has new rules about food labelling, which the government claim to have started enforcing from last Monday.   Many products do now have these labels (cheese apparently contains milk, in case you hadn't realized). 

In the last week or so, this seems to have prompted supermarkets to do two things.

  1. Withdraw products.
  2. Attach a disclaimer label warning that a product may contain:  

"crustacea and crustacean products, eggs and egg products, fish and fish products, peanuts, soyabeans and their products, milk and milk products (including lactose), tree nuts and nut products"

Hmmm.  One can only marvel at a production process which could involve exposure to all those products.  Or maybe they think that an all-purpose disclaimer is a way of getting around the rules.


Giving it all away

Rather bizarrely, The Mail on Sunday (a UK newspaper) is giving away Prince's new CD today.  I can see that it makes sense financially - Prince will get more from the newspaper than he would as an advance from a record company - but I find it hard to believe that MoS readers would be big fans of Prince (or vice versa).

It therefore seems likely that a lot of the CDs will be thrown away unplayed, and that a lot of copies of the newpaper will be discarded unread.

Apart from the environmental issue, music retailers in the UK are not happy:

Paul Quirk, co-chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said the decision "beggars belief".

"The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores," said Mr Quirk, referring to a period in the 1990s when Prince famously stopped using his name in favour of a symbol.

"It is an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career.  It is yet another example of the damaging covermount culture which is destroying any perception of value around recorded music."

Hmmm..  I wonder how many copies of this album would have been sold in UK record stores.  Not very many, I venture to suggest. 

Anyway, after initially criticizing the move, HMV have decided that they will stock the newspaper:

HMV's move was attacked today by rival Virgin Megastores, which "expressed disbelief" at the company's decision.

"We're stunned that HMV has decided to take what appears to be a complete U-turn on their stance towards covermounts and particularly in this case, as only a week ago they were so vocal about the damage it will cause," said Simon Douglas, Virgin Retail managing director.

"Simon Fox [HMV chief executive] labelled the Mail on Sunday deal as 'devaluing music' and 'absolute madness', now they appear to have joined forces to sell more copies of the very same paper," Mr Douglas added.

"It's not only retailers that suffer; the public will suffer in the long term by restricting choice on the high street. Of course people will take a free CD by a platinum-selling artist like Prince but you only need to look at what's happened to Fopp going into administration to get an idea of the potential long-term impact

There are two issues here, I think.  The first is rather specific to the UK, where newspapers give away DVDs, CDs, posters, etc. in an effort to boost circulation - though usually the DVDs and CDs are either very old or rather obscure.  I doubt that it really does the newspapers any good, and it probably reduces the perceived value of CDs and DVDs.  So I do think that HMV are taking a risk here (though maybe they are right that some people will buy some CDs along with their 3 day old Mail on Sunday).

The second and universal issue is that CDs and DVDs are on their way out, and shops such as HMV and Virgin Megastores are just going to having to come to terms with that.  If you can download music and video, why bother going to a shop to buy physical product?  It also means that artists need to find other ways to earn money (see Free doesn't mean worthless), and so I happen to think that Prince is being pretty smart here.    


Different rules

When Carlos Tevez & Javier Mascherano were unexpectedly signed by West Ham just before last summer's transfer deadline the whole thing looked decidedly odd, and sure enough it has turned into a hugely entertaining saga for anyone not directly affected. 

First West Ham pretended they owned the players.  Then they claimed to have torn up the agreement whereby Tevez was owned by somebody else.  Now they appear to be expecting a transfer fee from Manchester United for a player they don't own.  Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

Earlier, the club were found guilty of acting improperly and withholding vital documentation over the ownership of the two players and fined £5.5m by the Premier League even though the standard punishment for similar (and less serious) offences has always been a points deduction - which would have caused West Ham to be relegated.  Then an arbitration panel ruled that the club should have been deducted points, but refused to over-turn the decision.  No, I don't understand that logic either.

Yesterday, Sheffield United failed in their bid to get the High Court to force the Premier League to do what they should have done in the first place and deduct points, but say that they are still going to pursue other options. 

The irony here is that West Ham were presumably chosen in the expectation that the two players they would play regularly in a team that was reasonably successful. The team would benefit and the players would be sold on for higher fees.  Instead West Ham spent almost the whole season struggling to avoid relegation, and Mascherano hardly played at all during his brief time at the club - and was loaned to Liverpool during the January transfer window (but only after the rules were bent to allow him to play for 3 clubs in one season).

Tevez didn't start his time at West Ham very well either, but he almost single-handedly saved West Ham with his performances at the end of the season, which is one reason why Sheffield United felt so aggrieved.

It's interesting to speculate on what might have happened to West Ham if these two players had not arrived.  It certainly appears that Alan Pardew didn't know much about the players before they were signed, and didn't have much idea what to do with them.   After doing surprisingly well in the previous (2005/6) season, they were 6th in the table at the time of the deal, but they didn't win a game in September, and by December they were in the bottom three and Pardew was duly sacked (though he was snapped up by Charlton and got them relegated).

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