West Ham's chances of surviving in the Premiership were increased on Friday when the east London club escaped a points deduction over the controversial signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.
The Hammers were hit with a fine of 5.5 million pounds (US$11 million) after a disciplinary panel established by the FA Premier League found that the two Argentinians were effectively owned by a third party and that the club had acted with "dishonesty and deceit" to disguise that fact from league officials.
West Ham said it accepted the ruling but will consider an appeal over the amount of the fine. While it is a record financial penalty for an English club, it will be regarded as a price worth paying if West Ham goes on to retain its top flight status.
In its ruling, the panel concluded that the conduct of West Ham amounted to "an obvious and deliberate breach of the rules" and "a grave breach of trust as to the FAPL and its constituent members."
The seriousness of the charges meant that "normally" a points deduction would have been applied but it was decided that this "would not be proportionate" in this case.
This was because of a number of mitigating factors, including West Ham's recent change of ownership, its guilty plea and the fact that the season is at such a crucial, late stage where the impact of a points deduction would be greater than if it had been imposed midway through the campaign.
Tevez and Mascherano came from Brazilian club Corinthians, but their registrations were effectively owned by Media Sports Investment, a consortium headed by businessman Kia Joorabchian.
At the time, the consortium was considering a takeover of West Ham. But that bid never materialized and the club was instead bought by an Icelandic consortium fronted by the current chairman, Eggert Magnusson.
Mascherano was transferred to Liverpool in January while Tevez remains with West Ham. Both of their contracts have been regularized.