West Ham's attempt to overturn Andy Carroll's three-match ban looks set to be resolved at a Football Association arbitration hearing this morning after the club threatened legal action.
West Ham's co-owner David Gold had warned that seeking "legal redress" was the only option after an appeal against the striker's suspension was dismissed. The FA, keen to keep the matter out of court, is said to have agreed to arbitration.
The Daily Mirror reports that a hearing will be held Friday morning and will feature a three-person panel, with West Ham and the FA choosing one member each and the chairman to be agreed upon. The verdict of such tribunals are made public but the proceedings remain confidential.
Carroll is due to miss tomorrow's Premier League match against Aston Villa and further fixtures against Norwich City and Southampton, after he was sent off by Howard Webb for violent conduct over an incident involving Swansea's Chico Flores.
West Ham are understood to have written a letter to the FA with their grievances after an independent regulatory commission threw out their appeal against the suspension on Tuesday. Gold confirmed that the club would be taking legal action, which if pursued could potentially result in a challenge through the court of arbitration for sport. The FA is confident that the correct procedures were applied but would not comment last night.
Gold said: "There is nowhere to go other than to seek some kind of legal redress. It's not ideal – the last thing I want to do is going to some kind of legal issue because I think it is a footballing issue. If we were mid-table we would probably get on with it but we are fighting for our lives to retain our Premiership status and we owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves. We are a club that understands there are rules and we abide by them. But you have every commentator and 80% of the media saying it wasn't a sending-off.
"We are upset, we feel we have been badly treated. We are hugely disappointed at the outcome of the process."
Flores, who was caught by Carroll's flailing arm during West Ham's 2-0 win, has claimed there was "aggression" in the challenge. However, Gold is adamant that Webb's decision was incorrect and that the loss of Carroll for three matches could prove critical. "You can see the impact he has on our club," said Gold. " I feel sorry for him as well. He was shrugging the guy off; OK, he has messed his hair up but I don't think you should get sent off for messing somebody's hair up."
The possibility of taking the matter to the high court was suggested, although all Premier League clubs agreed on the disciplinary appeal process at the beginning of the campaign.