Fifa threat to Hoolahan bid

Matthew Chambers Norwich City could find themselves embroiled in a legal wrangle involving world football's governing body Fifa if they want to sign Blackpool's Wes Hoolahan.

Matthew Chambers

Norwich City could find themselves embroiled in a legal wrangle involving world football's governing body Fifa if they want to sign Blackpool's Wes Hoolahan.

Much speculation has surrounded the future of the Irish winger with the Canaries hotly tipped to land the 26-year-old's signature, but any deal appears to have stalled.

The delay would seem to be because, as it stands, Fifa have put a block on Blackpool selling Hoolahan while a legal wrangle rumbles on with his former club Livingston.

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Hoolahan was on loan at Blackpool from Livi for the 2006/7 season, making 42 league appearances and scoring eight goals, but allegedly, during this time, the Seasiders were late with several loan payments.

At the end of the 2006/7 season Blackpool decided they wanted to take up the option of signing Hoolahan, whose stock had risen massively since he left Scotland for the north west, on a permanent basis for the bargain price of £75,000, but Livingstone tried to block this claiming the Bloomfield Road club had been in breach of the loan agreement.

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In June 2007, Hoolahan signed a two-year contract with Blackpool. Livingston, however, refused to sign the documentation sanctioning the move, stating that Blackpool had repeatedly breached the terms of the loan agreement, which meant that they had lost the right to activate a £75,000 release clause.

Blackpool denied any such default, and referred the matter to the Football Association. With Livingston being backed by the Scottish Football Association the matter was passed to Fifa for a decision to be made on the player's future.

In August last year Fifa ruled in Blackpool's favour, thus confirming Hoolahan as a Blackpool player, although Fifa are still to decide the fee to be paid, or if Livingston are entitled to any compensation and while this is still on-going Blackpool cannot sell Hoolahan.

Maurice Smith, who was on the Livingston board at the time Hoolahan made his move to Blackpool, is adamant that until Fifa make a final decision the Dublin-born player is unable to switch clubs.

He explained: “The final decision on whether any compensation should be paid by Blackpool to Livingston over and above the sum that they have already paid is still with Fifa. My understanding is that until Fifa come to a conclusion Blackpool can't sell Hoolahan unless they settle something with Livingston, so it's not as clear cut as a typical transfer.”

He added: “What they could do is go to Livingston and say we're selling Wes Hoolahan and you'll get x per cent or x thousand pounds if you drop the case.”

The West Lothian side are understood to want a fee in the region of £250,000, while Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has stated he would not be willing to pay a penny more than the £75,000 the club already handed to Livingston.

To make matters more complicated Livingston are in the middle of a takeover by an Italian consortium, who are possibly unaware of the Hoolahan situation.

Smith, who has helped broker the Livi takeover with the head of the consortium Angelo Massone, added: “Basically it was to do with Blackpool being slow making the loan payments for the loan agreement. They had paid late and technically we felt that they were in breach of the loan agreement.

“Blackpool then said look we are going to take up the option to sign him and pay the £75,000 that was originally agreed, but we said you can't do that because it is in breach of the loan agreement. It then went to the FA and the SFA and then on to Fifa.

“What Fifa ruled temporarily was that Hoolahan's registration could transfer to Blackpool. Blackpool would pay the £75,000 and then Fifa would deliberate whether additional compensation would be due to Livingston. Until that is decided he can't go anywhere.

“Blackpool could go to Fifa and ask them to lift that condition or issue a decision and then Norwich could maybe sign him and then Blackpool would have to pay a proportion of that to Livingston. It's certainly not been completed yet.”

A Blackpool club official said: “It's something we are not going to comment on. As far as we are concerned he is still a Blackpool player. It's still on-going with Fifa and we have no further comment to make on it.”

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