Sheffield United spark final battle of long-running ownership feud

Sheffield United spark final battle of long-running feud between Prince Abdullah and Kevin McCabe as club issue legal threat to long-serving chairman over minor copyright issue

  • Prince Abdullah seized control of Sheffield United from Kevin McCabe  
  • Pair have long-running feud and and final battle is over copyright infringement
  • Legal letter was sent to McCabe about club crest on a sign for his company 

Sheffield United sparked the final skirmish of the club’s bitter power struggle this week by issuing a legal threat about a minor copyright infringement.

Blades chief executive Stephen Bettis signed a letter on Monday ordering a crest to be removed from fencing around an empty plot of land near Bramall Lane. The following day, a lone workman set out from Manchester with pots of paint to obliterate the offending image.

It is the latest clash in the long-running ownership dispute which has seen Prince Abdullah seize control of the club from long-serving chairman Kevin McCabe.

Kevin McCabe (left) and Prince Abdullah, pictured in 2013, were in a bitter power struggle

The Saudi prince won a High Court case last year to acquire McCabe’s 50 per cent stake in the club, newly promoted to the top flight, for just £5million.

As part of the ruling, he must also pay the market value for a package of properties, including the stadium and the training ground, from McCabe by July.

At the request of the prince, the two parties met in London in January and agreed a settlement which would avoid arbitration.

Prince Abdullah won a High Court case in September to take full ownership of Sheffield United

There was to be a downpayment by the end of March but the Prince has since withdrawn from the deal, meaning the two sides are once again locked on a course for another court date.

Statements were released on Wednesday by both McCabe’s company Scarborough International and the club.

Sheffield United accused its former chairman of trying to force the club out of Bramall Lane, its home since 1889, by increasing the price based on the residential value of the site.

The club sent a letter to former chairman McCabe over using the club crest  

Earlier in the week they had sent the legal letter to McCabe about a club crest which appeared on a sign for his company, Sheffield United Ltd, the former parent company and at one time sole owners of the Blades.

It had been displayed for months on the hoardings around a vacant plot of land near the ground known as Boundary Corner and has now been painted out.

The plot is one of two owned by McCabe which are inside the Bramall Lane site and earmarked for residential development and are not part of the package which Prince Abdullah is obliged to buy as part of the High Court ruling.

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Reading 1-2 Sheffield United AET: Billy Sharp scores extra-time winner

Reading 1-2 Sheffield United (AET): Billy Sharp scores extra-time winner as Blades overcome Championship strugglers to reach FA Cup last eight

  • David McGoldrick headed Sheffield United ahead after just two minutes 
  • However, Reading equalised on the stroke of half-time through George Puscas
  • Puscas scored from the spot after George Baldock pushed Andy Rinomhota 
  • The game went to extra-time, and Billy Sharp headed the Blades back in front
  • The Premier League side eventually held on to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals  

Not even Pele or Puscas could stop this Sheffield United train from rolling on.

Dreams of Europe and now the last eight of the FA Cup. When will Chris Wilder’s powers wane?

Here, Reading pushed their visitors beyond 90 minutes. But at the end of a long, tense tie, United stood tall thanks to one of their shortest stars. 

Sheffield United veteran Billy Sharp heads powerfully into the net for the Blades victory 

The 34-year-old celebrates his goal on the stroke of half-time in extra-time at the Madjeski

READING (4-5-1): Rafael 6; Yiadom 5.5, Miazga 6, Morrison 5.5, Obita 6; Meite 6.5 (McCleary 105), Rinomhota 6.5 (Baldock 105), Swift 6.5, Ejaria 6.5 (Gomes 98), Olise 6 (Masika 98); Puscas 6.5

Subs not used: Walker, Moore, Blackett

Goals: Puscas 43 pen

Bookings: Rinomhota

Manager: Mark Bowen 6.5

SHEFFIELD UNITED (3-5-2): Henderson 6; Basham 6, Egan 6.5, O’Connell 6; Baldock 5.5, Lundstram 6.5, Berge 6.5 (Robinson 99), Freeman 7 (Retsos 106), Osborn 6.5; Mousset 5.5 (McBurnie 61, 6), McGoldrick 6.5 (Sharp 79, 7)

Subs not used: Verrips, Jagielka, Zivkovic

Goals: McGoldrick 2, Sharp 115

Bookings: None

Manager: Chris Wilder 6.5

Attendance: 15, 129 

Referee: Kevin Friend 5

Billy Sharp netted an extra-time winner after George Puscas’ penalty cancelled out David McGoldrick’s first club goal in nearly a year.

Even after Sharp’s intervention, a long-range effort from Judilson Gomes – known as Pele – came within a whisker of forcing penalties. But instead United are in the quarters for the first time since 2014.

‘As a Championship side we knocked out so many Premier League sides in this cup and the League Cup so we knew it was never going to be easy,’ Wilder said.

‘The biggest thing is getting through… we got the job done and found a way to win. It was a difficult night for us.’ 

David McGoldrick heads home past Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral after just 85 seconds

The Sheffield United forward’s goal was his first of the season in any competition 

Relief at the end of an evening that had begun so smoothly.

Within 85 seconds, McGoldrick buried a free header from seven yards and soon the visitors’ unrelenting possession began to suck the life out of the game. Both McGoldrick and John Egan missed chances to extend their lead, too.

But then three minutes before half-time, a lifeline for Reading.

From a harmless ball into the box, Andy Rinomhota went down under a challenge from George Baldock.

It looked a soft call from Kevin Friend but Puscas didn’t care. He beat Dean Henderson and the goal seemed to shellshock United, who struggled to re-establish their authority. 

Reading equalised in the 43rd minute through George Puscas’ penalty into the corner

The Romanian (R) celebrates his goal which levelled the scores heading into the interval

Instead it was Reading who, despite being 16th in the second tier, were on the front foot.

Unfortunately they created little to show for it and eventually paid the price. Before the end of normal time McGoldrick headed over and Luke Freeman went close from distance. 

United had to wait until the 105th minute before a chance eventually stuck, with substitute Sharp making no mistake after Freeman’s cross reached him at the back post.

Nothing, not even their famous names or their Friend in black, could help Reading come back this time. 

‘It was a long hard fought battle and it’s hard to take,’ Reading boss Mark Bowen reflected. ‘We have to take this on in our league form.’ 

Sheffield United’s Ben Osborn attempts to take the ball off Reading defender Andy Yiadom 

Sharp celebrates his third goal of the season with his team-mates on Tuesday night 

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder celebrates after his team progressed to the last eight 

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Sheffield United players will NOT get bonus for European qualification

Sheffield United players will NOT be rewarded with bonuses if they qualify for a European place this season, with their incredible rise unthinkable at the start of the season

  • Newly promoted Sheffield United are on an incredible return to the top-flight
  • The Blades have become strong contenders for a European place this season
  • Even the club’s higher-ups didn’t foresee Chris Wilder’s Premier League rise 
  • The club made no plans for a customary European bonus at the start of the term 

Sheffield United players are not due to receive any bonuses if they qualify for Europe this season, underlining the scale of their achievements in the Premier League since promotion last summer.

Chris Wilder has already guided his side past the 40-point mark, meaning the Blades are virtually assured of avoiding relegation back to the Championship.

Having achieved safety they will have a crack at securing European football for the first time in their history, but it is understood Wilder’s players do not have any bonuses written into their deals for such an eventuality.

Sheffield United will not be financially rewarded for securing a European place this season

Chris Wilder’s side have made a remarkable return to the Premier League, fighting for Europe

Securing a European spot seemed unthinkable earlier this season, but the Blades keep winning

Top-flight players often have European qualification bonuses in their contracts, but there are none in the schedule agreed by the club at the start of the season, when qualifying for the Champions League or Europe League was unthinkable.

The players will, however, earn increasing amounts depending on how high they finish in the league. And, as Sportsmail revealed in November, they will split a £10million pot for staying up, along with survival bonuses they are likely to have negotiated into their deals.

Sheffield United’s owners may make their own personal gestures to players should their dream of European football become reality. 

At other clubs, a European bonus is customary, but it would have never been considered 

When Leicester were crowned champions against all the odds in 2016, owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought BMW cars for everyone in the squad.

The Blades are seventh in the table — four points behind Chelsea in the final guaranteed Champions League spot — which has often been enough to clinch a spot in the Europa League qualifiers in recent years. 

But Manchester City’s pending European ban could open up an extra slot, meaning Wilder’s men may only need to finish eighth.

They may receive personal gestures of gratitude from the owners if the Blades reach Europe

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