The race for the Championship title could be blown wide open after long-time leaders Queens Park Rangers were issued with seven charges by the Football Association yesterday.
Rangers, seven points clear at the Championship summit, could face a points deduction having been accused of signing £3.5m Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin on a four-year deal from Institute in July 2009, but allowing an unnamed third party to keep a stake in his economic rights.
QPR and ex-chairman Gianni Paladini have also been charged with providing false information when Faurlin was originally registered, as well as paying an unauthorised agent as part of the player’s arrival.
Rangers have been widely considered shoe-ins for top spot this season, having lost just four times in the Championship this season.
But if they are found guilty, a points deduction that would bring the chasing pack back into serious title contention.
The case echoes the messy affair that surrounded Carlos Tevez’s move to West Ham United, which breached the Premier League’s rules over third party ownership.
The Hammers were eventually fined £5m in April 2007 but were not deducted any points, effectively relegating Sheffield United who, in a strange twist, were managed at the time by Neil Warnock – currently in charge at QPR.
Faurlin has made 31 appearances this season.Having discovered the breach of third party rules in September, the Football League passed the case on to the FA as they still lack their own rules on the issue.
The FA duly allowed QPR to buy out the third party rights a month later enabling Faurlin to continue playing – but although they are happy with the player’s eligibility, the FA charges relate to concealing the full details of his contract and ownership when QPR came to register the player and ensure that eligibility.
A statement issued on Rangers’ official website last night said: ““Having co-operated fully with the FA’s investigation, QPR and Mr Paladini shall be denying all of the charges and requesting a formal FA hearing to determine them.
“QPR and Mr Paladini are confident that there has been no deliberate wrongdoing involved.”