Everton’s finances have rarely been far from the headlines recently and this week has been no different.
With the independent commission hearing into Everton’s alleged breach of Profit and Sustainability rules reportedly taking place, the Daily Telegraph’s John Percy reported that the Premier League is seeking a 12-point deduction if the Toffees are found guilty.
This was was quickly picked up by other outlets and understandably caused alarm among the supporters. Such a deduction would almost certainly relegate the Toffees and cause more financial strife at a time where the club is already on shaky financial ground.
However, there is no need to worry just yet. Delve deeper and there are more factors at play in this story which need to be taken into consideration.
Firstly, the media.
Talk of 12-point deductions makes headlines, gathers clicks and gains traction on social media. I’m not saying the information is false – John Percy is a very reliable and well respected reporter – but the flurry of headlines that followed from other outlets is not an accurate reflection of what is going on.
For starters, the headline that ‘Everton face 12-point deduction’ is not exactly accurate when the report states that the Premier league has only recommended such a deduction if Everton are found guilty.
The Toffees do feel like a bit of punching bag at the moment. I can understand why the club has stayed silent on the issue to allow due process, but I also understand the frustration of Evertonians and calls from some fan groups/website for the club to push back more on negative stories in the media.
Secondly, the Premier League can recommend what it likes, but it is not up to them. The independent commission will decide guilt and punishment. The deduction of 12 points is roughly in line with the punishments dealt out in the EFL so there is some consistency there, but that does not mean it is necessarily likely.
Thirdly, if the Premier League has no say in the punishment we must consider why it has decided to brief journalists about this now.
The league is under pressure from clubs who have been relegated in recent years and believe Everton have unfairly stayed up at their expense. We have all read stories about how the likes of Burnley and Leeds preparing to sue Everton and/or the Premier League if they are found guilty. The Premier League will likely want to reassure these clubs that it is taking the matter seriously. Even if the ultimate decision is not in its hands, the narrative has been set.
That is before we question the timing of this story, less than 24 hours after Everton announced the death of chairman Bill Kenwright. It is insensitive at best.
Then there is the matter of the proposed independent regulator. The Premier League wants to show it can keep its own house in order without outside interference, so this kind of bullish talk of 12-point deductions could be as much aimed at the government as it is the footballing world. It has been reported that Everton had an open book policy with the Premier League for several months and it signed off every transfer, so it seems curious for it to suddenly turn around and say Everton are in the wrong. The threat of a regulator and the need to seem tough would be a credible explanation.
Remember Manchester City are also under scrutiny, though they have 115 charges to Everton’s one. That is also a much more complex case which is likely to take months if not years to resolve, so direct comparisons with Everton are not really helpful. But any punishment given to the Toffees will be watched with interest a few miles down the M62.
Finally, we have to remember that there is very little detail about the case in the public realm and no real precedent to fall back on. No-one is even sure what exactly Everton have done wrong, people are merely speculating based on their admittedly significant losses posted in club accounts over recent years. With such little information anyone making judgements on what might happen are merely speculating. Some are doing so in good faith based on their knowledge and expertise, some have other motivations at play.
It feels like this is political posturing from the Premier League to try and control the narrative and appease rival clubs. If Everton are found not guilty or are given a smaller punishment the league can still turn around and say it was taking the issue seriously and can be trusted to police itself.
My hunch therefore (what it is worth) is that a significant points deduction is unlikely given the circumstances surrounding the case, particularly Everton’s co-operation and the apparent sign-off of the accounts before the Premier League’s about turn. Any tough punishment would also likely be the subject of appeal and possibly a lengthy court battle extending beyond the end of this season. However, with such little definitive information out there Evertonians would be best blocking out all the external noise and wait for the commission’s conclusion.