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By Tony Attwood
Everton have had their league total of points cut from 14 to four for breaching financial fair play rules.The Telegraph has immediate lept to their defence, claiming they have done nothing wrong.
It appears to be the harshest of all punishments so far, and also looks very much like a warm-up for the way in which Chelsea and Manchester City, (both of whom are under investigation), will be treated.
In essence if the League can get this one through the inevitable appeal, they will use that experience as guidance for the way the next cases are fought.
The position of the relevant teams is shown in the table below, and might for a while bring a little hope for those clubs lurking at the bottom of the table. However, Everton have been averaging 1.16 points per game this season, and Sheffield United only 0.42, so on current form Everton will easily climb up the league and escape relegation even with a points deduction. In which case the punishment will be met with a shrug of the shoulders within the club, alongside lots of angst which will be provided for gullible football journalists – of which there seem to be many.
Indeed the manipulation of gullible journalists seems to be an increasing game played by clubs who have noted the tramlines into which professional football writers seem to be fixed. Never criticise referees, never criticise PGMO, never criticise the FA for being judge and jury, never investigate Manchester City’s funding… the list goes on and on.
But whatever the outcome, with 26 games to go, current results should see Everton get a further 30 points taking them to 34 points while at their current rate of progress Luton Town are likely to get a further 13 points taking them up to 19 points for the season, leaving Everton safe. Here’s the table showing the three teams under suspicion of cheating on bold
Everton are of course going through the normal motions saying that they were “shocked and disappointed” and noting they will appeal. Appeals in football usually work (unless of course Arsenal are involved) so that will cut the level of knock-back. But as the table above shows, the bottom three are doing so badly that unless they can achieve a dramatic turnaround, they are still all likely to be below Everton, even if Everton keep their penalty.
What probably moved the League to be particularly aggressive this time is the fact that Leeds United, Leicester City and Burnley have all announced that they are going to sue for damages for being relegated last year, whatever the penalty.
For example, if Leeds United argued that their draw with and defeat by Everton, could have been two wins for Leeds (if Everton had not cheated on the money), then Leeds would have had four more points, and with Everton deducted 10 points Leeds would stay up.
A reallocation of all of Everton’s 36 points (on the grounds that they cheated in every match) would of course shake the table up a bit, and most clubs near the bottom would get some sort of benefit. And such is the benefit of being in the Premier League, even at the bottom, clubs might be willing to have a go at some creative point tallying.
And if Everton are found guilty of financial shenanigans after the appeal, not just last season but the season before then Burnley could argue that they should not have been relegated then. And since the audit of clubs’ financial records that has caused Everton to be in hot water was for 2021/22 it would seem that compensation claims could be made at least by Leeds and Burnley for that season. Watford and Norwich, the bottom two, would be harder pressed to make a case.
Everton have confessed to losses of £371.8m over the last three years and the rules do say that clubs can only lose £105m over three years. So they really are going to have to do quite a bit of explaining if they want to overturn the verdict.
At the heart of the problem there is the issue of the club’s spending on their new stadium. Everton believe they have put forward a range of excuses including having to pull out of the naming rights deal with the company of Alisher Usmanov (late of Arsenal) which was worth about £200m when Russia invaded Ukraine (which it is reasonable to say was hardly Everton’s fault.
But they put that excuse forward during the hearing, so it is hard to see how an appeal just based on that could be made to work. We shall see.
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