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Unfair Play? The Questionable Timing of Premier League Point Deductions

Chelsea players celebrate with trophy after winning the English Premier League at Stamford Bridge in London May 9, 2010. Chelsea defeated Wigan Athletic 8-0 in the last match of the season. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0) 207 864 9000 Picture Supplied by Action Images

Staff Writer Grace Holloway explores the controversies surrounding the Premier League’s use of point deductions.

Nottingham Forrest are currently waiting for the results of their recent appeal, expected to end on Monday, 6th May. This comes after a series of deductions faced by Premier League clubs this season.

The 2023/24 Premier League season has recently seen controversy regarding its point deductions relating to it’s Profit and Sustainability rules. Everton and Nottingham Forrest have found themselves in the spotlight, facing a combined 12-point deduction.

These rules, first implemented in 2013 under the title of ‘Financial Fair Play’, impose limits on clubs’ financial losses over a three-season period, dependent on their financial stability.

Prior to these regulations, the last Premier League club to face deductions was Portsmouth in 2009. This came as a result of high debts and administration, leading to the club finishing 20th that season.

Everton were initially deducted a ten-points in November 2023 for exceeding the £105 million limit by £20 million. They also faced scrutiny surrounding their financial support for recent stadium developments. The result of an appeal saw this reduced to six-points, however a further two-points were taken in April, placing their safety in a weaker position.

Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest, who were promoted to the League in 2022, faced a four-point deduction in March 2024. This is related to overspending of £34.5 million for the three year period ending in 2022/23. Forest contested this citing an unfair position, as their championship status for two of the years limited the losses to £61 million.

In a club statement Forest referenced this issue claiming the regulations, ”make it extremely difficult, if not impossible for newly promoted clubs without parachute payments to compete, thus undermining the integrity and competitiveness of the Premier League.”

Promotion hopefuls Leicester City, who exited the League last year, also have pending investigations. They could face deductions before they re-entering the Premier League, placing them on a back foot and struggle to avoid relegation.

Other Premier League clubs are facing investigations over Profit and Sustainability regulations. Manchester City, who are consecutive title winners, have been charged with 115 breaches of financial regulations from 2009 to 2018. These surround failures to provide accurate and up to date financial information and reports of other breaches.

A verdict has not been reached, despite the investigation starting in 2019, but is expected to be given around Autumn 2024. The punishment City could face may be huge and could relegate them to a lower league. The slow timing of the breach proceedings have been criticised by wider football fans, especially as City went on to be victorious in the 2022/23 season, and a title-contender this season.

This adds to an increasing call from clubs outside of the ‘Big Six’ of biases towards financially dominant clubs with the rules and regulations. Chelsea are also facing an investigation over similar concerns, but there is an unspecified date for their review.

John Textor, a shareholder of Crystal Palace, has publicly criticised the regulations. In a speech at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, he expressed his concerns: “It’s clear that (the rules are) built to make sure that clubs which do not drive significant revenues cannot catch up.”

With the point deductions that have occurred, suspicion has arisen over their timing. Everton and Forest have both been placed in dangerous positions surrounding their chances of survival. Both teams were deducted points between March and April, which has added tension to the already tight relegation battle. While Everton have almost reached safety after their victory against Liverpool, Forest are still 17th by only a few points.

Fans have voiced concerns over the timing and inconsistencies in the handling of point deductions. Though the tight relegation battle has made matches more dramatic and impactful, attracting more viewers for the Premier League. In matches, Everton fans have displayed their discontent through banners depicting the Premier League logo next to the word ‘Corrupt’, which echoes wider resentment among football fans.

Nottingham Forest have faced further issues regarding refereeing in their match against Everton and accused biases within the League. Their recent match saw three crucial penalty chances denied. After the match, accusations were made about a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) supporting Luton, another team in the tight battle for safety. This adds to growing concerns about a level of corruption and bias becoming rife within the sport. Fans are growing tired of this season’s difficult and bias VAR decisions, and the relegation battle that seems to be manipulated.

The Premier League has recently proposed a new system in line with UEFA’s financial rules. Regulations would be based on players and wages as a percentage of revenue, rather than having set financial loss limits. But this could still allow wealthier clubs to maintain their dominance and continue pushing boundaries on transfer spending. There are also issues with the disparity between the English Football League and Premier League regulations, making it harder to manage relegated and promoted teams.

As the season draws to a close, Forest still await the results of their recent appeal. This could see their point deduction reduced or maintained, and could be crucial in their bid for survival. The result is expected by Monday 6th May, a late stage in the season, adding further uncertainty.

It is likely this is only the beginning of a major focus on financial regulations within the league. Next season should see the results of the pending decisions of Manchester City and Leicester City.

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