As if Everton’s on-pitch problems weren’t enough to deal with they now have off-field issues as well after the Premier League charged them with breaching their profit and sustainability rules.
Scanning social media in the aftermath and it seems the supporter reaction is one of general resignation given Everton’s awful finances are clear for all to see. For years now the club has spent wildly in the transfer market on players who have failed to deliver tangible progress on the pitch. You only have to look at some of the players bought for huge sums on hefty wages to see why Everton found themselves in this mess.
Yannick Bolasie, Morgan Schneiderlin, Davy Klaassen, Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott, Andre Gomes, Jean-Phillipe Gbamin and Allan all cost in excess of £20m yet failed to deliver. Bolasie, Tosun and Walcott left on free transfers. Schneiderlin and Allan went for low fees, Klaassen went for £11m less than he cost while Gomes and Gbamin are out on loan.
There are more of course, including players still at the club. Yerry Mina, who cost around £28m, is Everton’s best defender when he is on the pitch but the Colombian has been unable to consistently stay fit for the last two seasons and looks likely to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.
The result has been finishes of 7th, 8th, 8th, 12th, 10th and 15th – the latter after a last-gasp survival effort.
For many, therefore, this is further evidence of the board’s failure to adequately manage the club and will likely lead to greater numbers attending the pre-match protests.
The Premier League, however, do have some questions to answer themselves given the timing of the charges. After all, Everton were under the impression that they were in the clear after approaching the Premier League and working closely with them over the last two years to ensure they met the guidelines.
Everton spent just £1.7m in the 2021 summer window as they foresaw troubled financial waters ahead. While the January 2022 arrivals of Vitali Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson were offset by the sale of Lucas Digne.
How they did comply with the rules is open to debate. Everton lost £371.8m over three years, far more than the permitted £105m, but attributed around £170m of those losses to the Covid pandemic, significantly more than most clubs.
Leeds and Burnley, two of Everton’s relegation rivals last season, launched a claim last May but were told by the Premier League that the Toffees had complied with the regulations. They reiterated that in the summer as Everton were able to sign players during the transfer window.
So why the U-turn?
Well, Matt Hughes of the Daily Mail reports that Premier League clubs feel the timing is politically motivated, with chief executive Richard Masters due to face MPs at a parliamentary hearing on sports governance on Tuesday.
It has been suggested that the Premier League wants to appear tough on clubs to stave off the threat of an independent football regulator, which has been proposed by the government.
Hughes says clubs are frustrated at the timing of the announcement as any punishment, which could include points deductions, will likely not be imposed until next season at the earliest despite the Toffees now being involved in a second successive relegation battle. A points deduction of four points or more last season would have seen the Toffees relegated. Take four points away now and they drop from 15th to bottom.
The Toffees could understandably argue that they could have sold more players last summer in order to balance the books had the Premier League charged them then (or at the very least indicated they were about the breach the rules), but did not do so under the impression they were in the clear.
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire spoke to Sky Sports News on Monday suggesting that one particular transfer took Everton over the FFP limit. There’s plenty of speculation online about what transfer that may be, but no confirmation as yet.
The one positive about the club is the new stadium rising on Bramley Moore Dock, though even the excitement of moving to the waterfront is being overshadowed by the team’s on-pitch struggles and fears it could become the best stadium in the Championship.
What a mess.
All of this noise should not distract from the primary focus of getting enough points to stay in the division (though it is worth noting that the fans have shown they can successfully protest against the board while backing the team). Relegation would make things 10 times worse and could be potentially catastrophic for the club’s future.
However, it is clear there are questions that need answering on both sides. And when the dust settles change is needed at Everton to ensure they are never in this position again.