SUNDERLAND plan to fight claims from West Ham that they made an illegal approach for striker Demba Ba.
The Hammers have reported the Black Cats to the Premier League for alleged tapping up of the free-scoring forward.
But in response, the Wearsiders issued a terse statement saying: “Sunderland AFC is fully aware of the Premier League regulations pertaining to player recruitment.
“If we are interested in any player currently under contract with another club, we will speak directly to that club, in line with the regulations.”
Chairman Niall Quinn is said to be bemused by the allegations.
West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold have already made it clear that they will sell or release most of their big name players this summer, so the claims against Sunderland seem curious at a time when they are looking to move many players on.
But a Premier League spokesman has confirmed that they have received a complaint from the Hammers saying: “We will look into their complaint to see if there is a case to answer.”
Privately, Sunderland are believed to be angry that a formal complaint has been made by West Ham on what might yet prove to be something of a technicality.
Premier League regulations state that a club cannot approach a contracted player at another club either directly or indirectly without prior written consent and the way the rule is worded means even a public statement expressing an interest in a player could be construed as an breach.
Manager Steve Bruce spoke highly of Ba in his pre-match and post-match press conferences connected to the West Ham game and accepted that the trip to London might in some way be seen as a scouting mission.
It would be very harsh if this is the tapping up West Ham are referring to, although there have been claims in one newspaper that the claims also relate to allegations that both Bruce and Quinn made direct approaches to the player and his representatives
It couldn’t have been easy for Sullivan, Gold and vice-chairwoman Karren Brady to watch their club slide into the Championship last weekend while the manager they effectively sacked when they were at Birmingham City (Bruce), sat in the opposing dug-out and helped steer his current team to 10th in the division.