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Everton: Broken rules, points deduction and fan protests

It’s not often that the international break provides one of the biggest moments in a Premier League season, but last Friday’s news that Everton were going to be docked 10 points for a breach of the profitability and sustainability rules looks set to be the story of the season.

If you’re reading this you’re probably familiar with the background to the case, but the short version is that Everton admit breaking financial profit/loss rules while disputing the extent of the breach and citing mitigating factors relating to new stadium costs and player values. 

The Premier League’s Independent Commission (which was set up in March following a unanimous vote by all top-flight clubs including the Toffees) held a five day hearing last month, and said the club’s near £20m loss meant a “sporting sanction” was justified.

Everton said they were “shocked and disappointed” by what they felt was a “wholly disproportionate” ruling and made clear their intention to appeal. That appeal will reportedly be heard by a new panel made up of lawyers and finance experts who have the power to change the punishment.

And if that isn’t enough background information for you we’d suggest that Google is your friend or, even better, have a listen to The Price of Football podcast which did a fantastic deep dive on Monday.

What is the FSA’s take?

This is yet another undeniable example of the need for an independent regulator in football. The Premier League can try and make the case it isn’t needed, or water down its powers, but the pile of broken clubs across our pyramid tells its own story. 

King Charles: “Legislation will be brought forward to safeguard the future of football clubs for the benefit of communities and fans.”

And it’s not just financial woes as every week another governance conundrum rears its head. It’s only days since the Premier League decided that clubs in the same ownership group could loan players to each other – despite the majority of top-flight clubs voting no

Of course no-one can turn back time but arguably the most important role a regulator can play is to be active, not passive. Football’s regulator should have real time powers to intervene as it sees problems growing and it could act to stop these situations developing.

The technology exists to monitor finances in such a way and the Government should deliver that to safeguard our clubs – vital community assets loved by their supporters.

As our statement last week made clear, we’ve always argued that football needs an independent regulator with real time powers to intervene before clubs get themselves into positions where a points deduction is handed out.

The FSA: “We’ve seen far too many clubs across the game find themselves in financial trouble and our sympathy is always with the supporters – they didn’t create the problems but they are punished alongside their club.”

The need for a regulator is more urgent than ever and the FSA has been at the heart of the political process to make sure that happens.

What do Everton fans think?

FSA associate members, the Everton Fan Advisory Board (FAB), said they shared the club’s shock and disappointment at a punishment that had been “handed down with no regard for supporters”. They back the decision to appeal.

Supporters have raised around £40,000 to fund protests against the ruling with a variety of plans including demonstrations in London, a hired plane and banner which is set to fly over the Etihad Stadium, and protests as Everton host Manchester United on Sunday.

Politicians in the north west have been fierce in their response to the points deduction with Steve Rotheram (mayor of the Liverpool city region) and Andy Burnham (his counterpart in Manchester and an Everton supporter) lining up behind the club.

In Westminster Ian Byrne MP (Liverpool, West Derby) launched an Early Day Motion which has the support of 22 MPs, with Everton’s FAB calling on all fans to lobby their MP to support.

The motion makes the pinpoint accurate assertion that the Premier League can no longer be relied on to govern top-flight football and urges the Government to “immediately establish an Independent Football Regulator that will safeguard the future of the game”. 

The prospect of an independent regulator might have come too late to save Everton fans from suffering because of actions by owners who were never required to demonstrate their financial probity in real time. But this mess could have been avoided.

The sooner the regulator is up and running, the greater the chance that this won’t he repeated elsewhere – change cannot come fast enough.

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