Everton are one of just six clubs to have played in every Premier League season since it began life in the 1992/93 season. The Toffees have been close to dropping out of that elite group of teams on various occasions over the years and have finished one place above the relegation zone three times. But could the recent imposition of the 10-point penalty from the Premier League spell the end of Everton’s time in the top flight?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the reason the penalty was imposed (in November 2023), we’ll discuss whether it’s fair, and we’ll attempt to predict whether the Toffees will overcome the hardship to maintain their top-flight status at the end of the current campaign.
Why Did Everton Get a 10-point Penalty?
We won’t delve too deeply into the technicalities of the financial rules of football within the Premier League (and beyond), as it can be something of a minefield. But essentially, Everton were penalised because they lost a total of £124.5m over three years up to the end of the 2021/22 financial period. This amount was greater than the largest permitted three-year loss permitted for Premier League clubs (which is a still-hefty £105m).
When this breach of the rules was highlighted, Everton were referred to an independent commission in March 2023, and when they reported, the commission – chaired by David Phillips KC – suggested the breach was down to “mismanagement”. The Premier League had initially pushed for a 12-point deduction, but with Everton presenting various mitigating circumstances, this was reduced to 10 points. The penalty is still the greatest the Premier League has ever imposed and is greater than that handed to Portsmouth in 2010 when they went into administration (and were docked nine points).
Everton have rejected the findings of the commission and offered various reasons for their failure to meet the financial rules. These included losing money on a player who had been released after being arrested (referred to – for legal reasons – as “Player X”), while the global health crisis of 2020 and 2021 and the war in Ukraine were also given as mitigating factors.
While the sports shutdowns during 2020 would have had an impact on the Toffees, it would also have affected other clubs. When it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, this had a direct impact on Everton because of a large sponsorship deal with USM holdings, which was owned by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. He faced sanctions after the Russian invasion and this caused Everton to lose the sponsorship. The commission dismissed these defences, however, claiming they were “the type of event that businesses experience”.
Was the Penalty Fair (and Should Other Clubs Get Penalties Too)?
As mentioned, the Premier League have never issued a sanction as large as a 10-point deduction before and many people (especially those connected to Everton) are suggesting it is very much on the harsh side. As mentioned, when Portsmouth went into administration and could have completely folded, they were only given a nine-point deduction. While Middlesbrough were docked three points back in 1996/97 for not turning up to a match!
There is certainly a feeling that Everton are being used to set an example to other clubs who may be tempted to bend the financial rules to gain an advantage in the ever-difficult world of top-flight football. But there is also a suggestion that this hard-line approach to such breaches may just be the first of several such punishments and that it is setting a precedent.
Manchester City, for instance, have been charged by the Premier League for a large number (more than 100!) of similar breaches between 2009 and 2018 and they have also been referred to an independent commission. The complexity and sheer number of breaches being investigated, however, mean that it could be a long time before the commission is able to report. But if Everton lost 10 points for their breaches, there will be some City fans – and indeed those at the club – who must be getting rather nervous at present.
Can Everton Surive in the Premier League?
Now the 10 points have been taken from Everton’s 2023/24 total, the club have slipped down to 19th position in the table, level on four points with rock-bottom Burnley. It is particularly frustrating for Everton fans as their side had been putting in some fine results of late, winning three and drawing one of their last six league matches. But could they still muster enough points to avoid relegation, despite the deduction?
It’s certainly going to be a tough ask. But the deduction might serve to give the club a bit of fight and could, in a sense, work in their favour as the players take on a siege mentality. Of course, it could go the other way and players who have no appetite for Championship football might decide to jump ship in the January window, thus making the Toffees’ task even more difficult. It remains to be seen whether they’ll survive, but Sean Dyche is no stranger to tight relegation battles and the former Burnley man might even relish the challenge.
Implications for Other Clubs
Aside from the chances of other clubs facing similarly severe punishments for financial rule breaches in the future, there are other possible implications of Everton’s points deduction for other clubs. Given that they technically gained an advantage through the breaches, and given that they only narrowly avoided relegation in the last two seasons, clubs who were relegated are suggesting they ought to receive compensation from Everton.
Leeds United, Leicester City and Burnley, for instance, are apparently weighing up their legal options and there have been suggestions they might attempt to sue Everton for hundreds of millions of pounds (which obviously wouldn’t help the Toffees’ financial situation!). They argue that the points should have been deducted in the 2022/23 season (when the issues arose), which would have meant Everton were relegated instead. It will be interesting to see how that pans out from a legal perspective as, if successful, it might open the door for other clubs to go after Manchester City (if they are found to have breached rules), perhaps those who lost out to them in the Premier League title race or even the Champions League.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Everton have a hell of a battle on their hands to stay in the Premier League, and if they manage it, it would be their greatest escape to date.