Clubs are starting to be challenged over their loses

Football, rules and tax

By Tony Attwood

If it is the sort of thing that interests you, you might well already know that there is not one club that is under investigation for breaches of the Financial Fair Play rules (obviously Manchester City) but two – that second club being Everton who it is said knocked up losses of £371.8m over a three year period.

But there is a problem.  If,at the end of this season, Everton avoid relegation through the normal means, but then the case finally gets round to being heard and Everton are, perhaps, deducted three points which takes them into the relegation zone, what then?

The clubs who finish in 18th to 20th place might by then have started to prepare for the lower levels of income to be found in the Championship, moving on certain players who they would very much like to keep if they were in the Premier League in 2023/24, but who they know they can’t afford in the Championship.

So the club is relegated, the top players are sold, the hearing then goes ahead, Everton are deducted three points, the relegated club is no longer relegated, but now doesn’t have the squad of players it needs and wants to tackle the Premier League once more in the new season.

Part of the problem here, as with the Manchester City case, is that no one has really thought any of this through before.  Rules have been set, but the “what if” scenarios that smaller companies are forever looking at (in my experience at least) have not been examined.

Of course these profit and loss figures relate to all the trading of the club and not just transfers, but having raised the subject it is interesting to look at the transfer spending over the past three years of the top spending clubs.   According to Transfermarkt the clubs with the biggest negative balances over that period in terms of transfer dealings, for the seasons 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 are

# Club Expenditure Income Balance
Meanwhile back with the current league table and Everton’s quandry, here it is…   They are still struggling to get themselves out of the mire, despite all that spending, and indeed all the thought of a new stadium (although under the rules of the league, expenditure on a stadium doesn’t count in terms of the current profit and loss results).


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
15 West Ham United 36 10 7 19 38 52 -14 37
16 Nottingham Forest 36 8 10 18 36 67 -31 34
17 Everton 36 7 11 18 32 56 -24 32
18 Leeds United 36 7 10 19 46 71 -25 31
19 Leicester City 36 8 6 22 49 67 -18 30
20 Southampton 36 6 6 24 31 66 -35 24


Now according to a report in the Telegraph “One club has now told Telegraph Sport privately of heightened fears that the case [involving Everton] will now be resolved after the start of next season.”

The issue behind all this financial fair play stuff is fairly easy: clubs can lose money but there is a limit on the amount of money they can lose.  That limit is currently set at £105m over three years.

Everton have spent something in the order of £700 million in the last seven years and they are still only just escaping relegation – or so it seems.  So with that level of spending it looks as if they might well have lost more money than they should have done.   

However profit and loss figures are fairly notorious as they are affected by the value of assets held – that is the players, and different accountants will work with the figures they get in different ways.  In the end of course, the only final arbiter is Revenue and Customs and they might in one case take quick action, and in another hang around for a while.

With my own work as chair of a small plc for a number of years my company was challenged three times by Revenue and Customs over the level of VAT we had paid.  Each time the accusation was on the same technical point. 

Now I always took the view in running the company that we should spend our time trying to make a profit not trying to find a way of avoiding tax, so we always did exactly what our accountants and the Revenue and Customs rulebook said.  So we fought the tax office each time over demands that would have put the company out of business had they been allowed. 

We won each time, the junior official who had made the original claim having “forgotten” a particular, but very important ruling in relation to VAT that was specifically aimed at companies in our line of business.   But the experience did show me that even the government’s own tax inspectors often have no idea just what the rules say and what government regulation says about how they should be applied.

And if they can make cock-ups like that with a company a fraction of the size of a Premier League football club, who knows what nonsense they can dream up with a club like Everton.

But still at the heart of all of this is the issue of time.  If Everton are found to have broken the rules and are docked three points are they then relegated half way through a season?  Or will the league shuffle the mess under a convenient carpet and forget about it?

2 Replies to “Clubs are starting to be challenged over their loses”

  1. Theres a big difference between a junior inspector in HMRC and the accountants the FA will use to forensically analyse the accounts of Everton, City or any other football club. The FA is a well-funded private body, it’s not part of the public sector which operates in a totally noncommercial orientated way.

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