As the countdown to what could be remembered as one of the more controversial relegations in Premier League history continues Latics fans can at least be distracted by another set of legal shenanigans. After much mulling about, FIFA has finally got around to setting a value on the debacle that was Andy Webster’s transfer from Hearts. Whilst the £625k compensation payment is somewhat less than the £5 million claimed by the Scottish club it is still more than either Latics and the player were expecting, leading to more talk of lawyers and appeals.

So, whilst the club have been struggling to break new ground on the pitch, it has been confirmed that they are trend setters off it.  Despite them being made jointly responsible for the payment, the compensation has nothing to do with any action taken by the club and relates to the lack of ‘just cause’ leading to Webster cancelling his contract.  The player has also received a two game ban, no matter which club he is playing for next season.

The clause that Webster used to walk out of Hearts is designed to allow players frozen out by their clubs to gain an early move away.  By finding against him, the judgement does not say that his actions were wrong, but that his situation was not worthy of a free move.

This essentially opens the market up to players who simply fancy a move elsewhere.  As long as they are going to another country they know that they can wait until the last year of their contract before walking out, without being hit too hard.

It’s not clear how this compensation payment was worked out, but it seems significantly less than any transfer fee might have been (between £1.5 and 2 million has been mentioned for Webster).  Imagine the clamour for Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard if the club signing them knew that they could get their man at half price.
Each of those players is about to reach the point where they could activate the same clause.  You will have heard the rumblings about at least two of them looking for a move and this judgement could see their agents furiously dictating resignation letters.

Whether this will judgement will have as wife ranging effect as the Bosman case remains to be seen.  There’s talk of lower transfer fees, of clubs being more willing to let players leave for fear of losing for even less in the last year of their contracts.

With things as daft as they currently are on that front (and with the new TV deal we can expect them to get worse) anything that addresses the balance can only be positive, but you can’t see many players wanting to push there deals through.  In any case it does little for the fans.

The Jambos have seen Webster develop from a raw young talent to (don’t laugh) Scottish international, only to see him slip away in the night.  No matter how much sympathy they have with his situation, it must be a source of frustration for their fans.  With the lack of recent player development at Latics, it’s hard to draw comparisons, but imagine the fuss if Gerrard or Henry move on for ‘next to nothing’.

Now that the compensation has been cleared up, we will, in all likelihood see Webster move to Rangers on a permanent basis.  Despite our actions over the initial transfer being proved correct, it is this that makes a mockery over the whole thing.

It seems that Webster would have preferred a move to Ibrox in the first instance, but the regulations prevented this.  The impression that you get is that Webster looked at his move to Latics as a stepping stone to a bigger club.  However it goes without saying that, in our opinion, Webster did not expect the move to happen so quickly and the loan move shows only that Rangers were monitoring his situation carefully.  If that is not the case then we may hear more about this yet.

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