Everton appeal to target ‘sanction policy’
By Ben Rumsby
Sport | Football
The Premier League’s failure to adopt a detailed “sanction policy” for its financial rules could form a key plank of Everton’s appeal against an unprecedented 10-point deduction. The club are formulating their strategy for overturning their “wholly disproportionate” punishment for breaking profit and sustainability regulations and it may include zeroing in on one element of the judgment by an independent commission. The 41-page decision stated that: “On 10 August 2023, the Premier League board adopted a sanction policy that it considered to be appropriate to breaches of the PSR.” It went on to state that this included a starting point of a sixpoint deduction plus a point for every £5million by which those rules had been broken. The independent commission refused to use that formula for the Everton case, which was brought before the Premier League came up with that “policy”, but still ended up imposing a sanction almost exactly in line with it. Everton may need to convince an appeal board to take an even dimmer view of the lack of a detailed sanction policy if they are to secure a more lenient punishment. The original commission made clear Premier League rules gave it the power to impose a range of sanctions that include deducting points, and that although the English Football League did have sanctioning guidelines, commissions were not bound by them. An appeal board would also have the power to increase Everton’s sanction but the prospect of it doing so is remote, given the original punishment ended up in line with the Premier League “policy”. The club could also point to the original commission’s ruling that they were not guilty of a “deliberate cynical breach of the PSR to achieve a sporting advantage” – although it did nevertheless find a sporting advantage had been obtained – and may argue again that they “co-operated fully with the Premier League’s investigations”. Everton’s appeal must be lodged by Dec 1 under a 14-day timetable in the governing body’s rules. Rival teams relegated during the period of the club’s rule breach, including Leeds United, Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton, have a further two weeks to lodge claims for compensation that could exceed £200 million. Everton would fight any such claims, and their appeal has won the backing of the Liverpool-supporting Mayor of Liverpool, Steve Rotheram. In a letter to the chief executive of the Premier League, Richard Masters, Rotheram wrote: “While I understand, and indeed support, the importance of maintaining discipline and upholding the integrity of the sport, it is crucial to ensure that any punitive measures are proportionate and just. I do not believe that this punishment fits the crime. “As many people have pointed out, the punishment imposed appears severe for the charge in question and sets a new precedent. “In 2010, when Portsmouth entered administration, a case of serious mismanagement, they were hit with only a nine-point penalty. For falling into administration a second time in three years, in 2012, they faced a 10-point deduction. The implication that Everton’s actions are somehow more egregious is, frankly, ludicrous. “I completely support the club’s appeal and would urge you to take a more balanced approach and consider alternative forms of punishment that do not unfairly penalise the club’s players and supporters. As a founding member of both the Football League and Premier League, Everton are an important part of the fabric of English football. They deserve to be treated fairly, justly and with respect.” A Liverpool MP has also said the 10-point penalty should be suspended until an independent regulator can examine the case. Ian Byrne, the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, has tabled an early-day motion in the Commons concerning the club’s plight. Byrne criticises the commission’s “cavalier approach to points deductions” and argues the Premier League “can no longer fairly govern top-flight football without independent scrutiny and legislation”. The motion’s text describes the sanction as “grossly unjust” and as a “punishment lacking any legal or equitable foundation or justification for the level of sanction”. The motion urges the Government to establish an independent regulator immediately.