Everton’s sanction could be bad news for City and Chelsea

This article was first published on Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly from 27 November 2023 to 3 December 2023.

Well, that’s one way to spice up your international vacation. The 10-point penalty imposed on Everton by the English Premier League (EPL) has become the talk of the football world, despite no club matches being played.

But the headlines were more about the prospect of the EPL being turned upside down than what it meant for Liverpool’s neighbors. That could happen if Manchester City and Chelsea were also found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules and given appropriate punishments.

Yes, the unthinkable is being thought and the “R” word is being whispered. And, if not in the EPL, there is precedent for deviant big boys in football. In Italy in 2006, the powerhouse Juventus were found guilty of match-fixing and banished to Serie B. Then, in Scotland, in 2012, the distorted Rangers regime was liquidated, and the Phoenix club began life in the fourth division.

The question the world of football is asking is whether the EPL is plucking low-hanging fruit by citing Everton for relatively minor profitability and sustainability violations, or is it far more likely? The question is whether this is to enjoy the richer harvest that can be gained by tackling suspects who have committed serious violations.

The City and Chelsea case in particular, which involved 115 charges, is far more complex and going back further, a conviction could have myriad repercussions – and not just in England. Before we talk about points, there are trophies. Between these two she has over 30 trophies.

Will it be awarded to the runners-up, like the Olympic medals sent in the mail after a belated disqualification for drug-cheating? The loss of glory is no consolation for them either, but it could lead to endless litigation for some clubs. The trio, who were relegated from the EPL last season, are already preparing to sue Everton for compensation for their narrow loss.

Things will be even more complicated for City’s defeated rivals. There were prize money, and some players would have been able to sign contracts if they had won at the time. I can’t buy it now. And I won’t even mention European qualifications. It won’t be Pandora’s box. It would be a minefield on Pandora.

That’s where the EPL and its independent commission are afraid to tread, for now. City have been on trial before, receiving a two-year ban from UEFA in 2020, which was later dropped on appeal. The fact that nine months have passed since the charges were announced confirms the level of anxiety authorities feel.

Yes, the “nuclear” threat by City Chairman Khaldun Al Mubarak to “hire the world’s best lawyers and litigate for the next 10 years” hasn’t gone away. If City suffers a crushing defeat in the EPL, the league, and European football, will be in turmoil for some time to come.

Innocent until proven guilty, the Light Blues are under threat of losing the titles they have already won, but could continue to play and win more titles. It would be a travesty, but something has to give and the EPL’s treatment of Everton suggests they are finally serious. But they will realize that City and Chelsea are very different beasts.

In fact, the City case is so complex that leading lawyer Nick De Marco KC said: “Considering the parties involved, I don’t think this case will be over within two to four years.”

Everton’s charge was petty theft (compared to the amount City was charged with, the amount was only £19.5 million). Since the acquisition in Abu Dhabi in 2008, the club has spent

They earned £2.5 billion and are back-to-back winners, winning the treble of the league, FA Cup and Champions League last season. Unraveling it all would be unimaginable and have far-reaching implications.

However, the punishment against Everton leaves the EPL with little room for maneuver. But there may be another reason why the Toffees were sacrificed. The British government is set to announce an independent football regulator that could break the EPL’s wings if a new emperor takes over.

The EPL hopes to show that it is immune to interference and can maintain its own order. But this suddenly tougher approach has everyone worried.

Simply put, Everton steals bread, Chelsea robs banks, City robs the Treasury and bluffs every attempt to rein them in. Or so it is claimed. And Everton have already been sent to the guillotine.

The announcement shocked the football world and sparked sympathy for Everton, from protests with planes overhead to calls for a parliamentary hearing. The club, which is a founding member of the Football League, cited several mitigation measures, but to no avail.

One of these was the failure to predict the invasion of Ukraine. They had agreed a lucrative deal with a Russian company for the naming rights to their stunning new stadium, but that had to be called off. Another signed Player X for a record fee but had to let him go for free following allegations of cheating with minors.

Everton finished two-thirds of the way

The new £760m home was a major financial rock for the club, but it has also been a boon to Britain and Ireland’s success in hosting the 2028 European Championship. I’m grateful, but I’m not grateful. As a result, a motion has been tabled in Westminster alleging “gross unfairness”.

By contrast, rivals expressed undisguised glee at the prospect of City and Chelsea achieving what was widely seen as an upset result, but doubts over whether any penalties would actually be handed down only softened.

Other clubs that could enjoy a schadenfreude spot were those at the bottom of the EPL table, where Everton plummeted after the ruling. Their survival prospects received an unexpected boost.

Meanwhile, City and Chelsea fans can only hope for the worst. These are the nouveau riche who were once mid-level ordinary people, and acquisitions by foreign millionaires have become comparable to the lottery. And like lottery winners, they now live far above their station. Only strict sanctions will satisfy the rest of the football world, who feel there is one law for the rich and another for everyone else.

Exhibit A for this argument came when six leading clubs, including City and Chelsea, opted to join Super League in 2021. It would have been nothing short of English football’s storming of the Houses of Parliament and would have destroyed the EPL. But their collective punishment was a £22 million fine and a promise never to do it again.

This ridiculous slap on the wrist undermined confidence in the entire system. And until last week, there was a sense that the worst that could happen to City and Chelsea, who have not yet been charged, would be a slap on the other wrist.

But Mishcon de Reya partner and head of sport Simon Leaf said the point deduction against Everton would be a seismic shift, calling it a “groundbreaking moment that sent shockwaves through the boardroom”. I called it. “The Premier League is taking this seriously and it seems very likely that they will continue to take this seriously,” said Tom Murray, senior sports lawyer at the firm.

For all the wrong reasons, off-field football promises to be every bit as fascinating as on-field.


Bob Holmes is a longtime sportswriter specializing in football.

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