Tottenham On This Day: Alan Sugar’s Finest Hour At Spurs


[Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]

Few Tottenham supporters would say that there were any high-points in Alan Sugar’s time as Chairman at Tottenham. The totally unexpected signing of Jurgen Klinsmann would be one and the day Sugar defeated the Football Association over their punishment of the club for financial irregularities was possibly his finest hour.

Alan Sugar [Photo: Logan Holmes]

It was on this day, 9th December, 1994 that Spurs heard that the punishment by the FA had been overturned, thanks to the dogged determination of the Chairman, Alan Sugar, who refused to accept their punishment.

May, 1994 – Irregular Payments

During the previous year’s High Court proceedings caused by the acrimonious fall-out between Chairman, Alan Sugar and Chief Executive, Terry Venables, details of irregular payments to players came to light. On 12th May, 1994 the Football Association formally charged Spurs with misconduct for the alleged irregular payment to a number of players. These had been made under the previous regime and were allegedly paid to players between 1985 and 1989. In the hope for clemency and that the authorities would treat them leniently, Spurs co-operated with the FA and assisted them by handing over documents which appeared to show that the payments had been made.

The FA, however, were treating the matter very seriously and a fortnight later before any judgement had been given by the inquiry team, they announced the arrangements should Spurs be demoted from the Premier League to Division 1 as a result of their misdemeanours. Sheffield United who had finished 20th in the Premier League would be the beneficiary’s of Spurs punishment by retaining their place in the top flight.

It was looking bad for Spurs and when the FA Commission gave their verdict in mid-June, it wasn’t much better. The investigation covered 40 charges of malpractice which involved payments made to fifteen players. The inquiry found Spurs guilty and imposed a record fine of £600,000. They imposed a deduction of 12 points from their total at the end of the 1994-95 season and Tottenham were expelled from that season’s FA Cup. 

These were the severest punishments ever handed out and shocked the football world. The punishments amounted to relegation by a slow and painful process. Fans were devastated and a heavy cloud of despondency hung over the club. Alan Sugar was so infuriated at the heavy-handed nature of the FA’s treatment of the club that he immediately announced an appeal. He regarded the punishment as ‘a deliberate vendetta against our club and against me personally.’

Tottenham Appeal Against Punishment

The appeal against the penalties imposed by the FA inquiry into the charge of misconduct was held in early July. Chairman, Alan Sugar, was the man for the occasion – he presented Spurs’ case against all of the punishments. Having considered the case, the Appeal panel halved the points deduction to six but increased the fine to £1,500,000 as well as maintaining the Cup ban.

A Second Appeal

Jun 2, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann smiles before the game against Germany at RFK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

Sugar was still not satisfied and immediately announced that Spurs would again appeal against the penalties that had been imposed against the club.  Sugar felt most aggrieved that the misconduct charges had been under a previous regime at the club and also that he had tried to co-operate with the FA over the investigation.

 Spurs’ season started under the burden of a six point deduction but the arrival of Jurgen Klinsmann had given the club a much needed boost. The appeal, however, didn’t take place until early December.

On This Day, 9th December, 1994

Alan Sugar had his finest hour as he battled successfully against the Football Association to secure Spurs’ re-instatement to the FA Cup. Sugar had been so enraged by the punishment that he had promised to have the decision over turned. He was as good as his word and kept up the fight in spite of various set-backs and won the day, much to the delight of the fans who would be able to look forward to a 3rd Round home tie against Altrincham in January.

In the view of the arbitration tribunal, the FA’s charges against Spurs had been ‘misconceived, bad in law and should not have been proceeded with….. and it was irrational to impose any penalty other than a fine.’

The authorities had treated Spurs in a heavy handed manner, taking no account of Spurs full co-operation in the investigation and they certainly had not anticipated coming face to face with someone like Alan Sugar. Such an encounter showed the Spurs’ Chairman at his best – he would not be put down by those in authority and was prepared to fight to the bitter end to get justice for Tottenham Hotspur. It is interesting that subsequent inquiries involving other clubs dragged on interminably and quietly ‘white-washed’ all issues, with no-one coming to account.

The Tottenham team celebrated this success with a 3 – 1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday the following day.

*** This blog was part of a longer I wrote a number of years ago for Topspurs on:

Tottenham’s Struggles with the Authorities – Read more