I’m going to take a quick break from the “Banter Era” player posts (working on DM, you can feel free to add your thoughts below) because some breaking news this morning is relevant to the topic, namely that Everton were deducted 10 points for breaches of the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play rules.
I’m not going to get into specifics of the Everton case because the Guardian has already done a fine job of reporting here. And this is far from a finished case. Everton will appeal and many of the clubs who were relegated during Everton’s period of non-compliance will be suing Everton and probably other parties for reparations.
But while this case is likely to drag on for a while it’s remarkable how quickly the Premier League has moved to punish Everton. The case was only brought 10 months ago, which was literally one month after Manchester City were charged with 115+ breaches of these exact same rules (plus more, like lying and hiding evidence). That just shows that even among the rich and powerful there are levels of justice, which are entirely determined by how much money and power you have.
Where I feel quite a bit of sympathy here is for the Everton supporters. Imagine waking up this morning and learning that your club, which has just escaped a relegation battle, has been thrown back into 19th place because of something that someone else did that was completely out of your control. And worse, something that they did which didn’t even materially benefit you as a supporter in any way.
Everton’s owners spent that money and didn’t even benefit the club or their supporters. They have no trophies to show for it, they aren’t even in Europe, and while the stadium will likely be finished, they are almost certainly going to face financial ruin if they are relegated to the Championship. Imagine waking up this morning and finding out Arsenal had been deducted 10 points because of something that Usmanov had done before he sold to Kroenke. Or even if Kroenke had done some shady crap in order to spend the last few years.
I’d be livid.
But where most of my anger would be directed is toward the Premier League, UEFA, and the Football Association. Because, let’s be honest here folks, they have been incredibly bad stewards of Football. These are the organizations who were supposed to have put in place the safeguards to PREVENT this financial doping and EVERYONE knew that they were failing. So much so that any mention of FFP from 2008-2018 literally drew sneers from any fan; whether they were in favor of it or not.
When Abramovich took over Chelsea, you didn’t need to be an accountant to see that he’d put a billion Pounds into just transfers alone and that there had to be some kind of cheating going on in order to make that happen, especially since their stadium was fucking trash, their history was trash, and they had no sponsors. The various authorities responded to this very obvious cheating by enacting rules which were supposed to protect the clubs and thereby the supporters from the exact things which we knew that they were and still are doing. And now we are “just learning” that they were allegedly paying people under the table in order to hire Conte and Eden Hazard in years where they were riding very close to FFP limits. And we are “only learning this now” because the new owners have voluntarily disclosed certain information and because of an investigative report into financial institutions in Cyprus.
And meanwhile, in the most incredible case of turning a blind eye to obvious cheating, you have Manchester City. They were found guilty of many breeches of UEFA’s FFP, several years ago, only to be let off the hook on a technicality. And it took the Premier League until this year to finally charge them, with over 115 charges. These are breeches from as far back as 2009, for which they were found guilty by UEFA over three years ago, and which they appealed to CAS in 2020. There is literally no legitimate reason why the Premier League didn’t run their own concurrent prosecution of Man City back in 2018, when the initial damning emails were uncovered. We are three years out from the CAS ruling – which literally found them guilty of breeches, but let them off on a statute of limitations – and we still have no punishment for Manchester City and their blatant cheating and lying. Just an utter dereliction of duty from the Premier League, UEFA, and the Football Association.
And here’s the thing about the Man City and Chelsea cases: I have no sympathy for their supporters. These two clubs cheated their way to many trophies, including multiple prestigious European titles, and their fans KNEW that these clubs and their owners were cheating, with many of them arguing that the cheating was “good for football” actually. Their supporters have laughed and “drank our salty tears” for decades.
So, if any group of fans and owners, if any clubs deserve to be punished, it’s Chelsea and Man City. I’m not holding my breath that they will be punished any time soon, but they absolutely deserve it. They deserve to have their titles stripped* and at least relegation to the Championship, if not fully removed from the English Football Pyramid. There must be consequences for this behaviour because if there aren’t, then what’s to stop Saudi Arabia from just outright buying the Premier League title?
And how this relates to Arsenal’s “Banter Era” should be obvious: there would be no Banter Era if every team had to compete with the legitimate resources at their disposal. Arsene Wenger didn’t play Denilson as the team’s DM because he thought Denilson was the best DM in the world, he played him there because he thought that Denilson was the best DM that Arsenal could afford. Moreover, Arsenal could have afforded better players had clubs like Chelsea and Man City been blocked from doubling wages, from trebling transfer fees, and from paying agents under the table to get top players at their clubs. And while we can’t say that Everton would have spent their money better, you have to admit that the chances that their owners would have tried to cheat in order to spend big on transfers would have been a lot lower if Chelsea and City had been punished early on for their obvious financial doping.
And this financial doping is exactly why so many teams want to form a super duper league. Clubs who don’t have a sovereign wealth fund which can pump money out of the ground (and destroy the planet at the same time) literally cannot compete with the three or four clubs which do. Wage inflation, transfer inflation, agent’s fees, and other ills will surely just increase, pushing more and more clubs to either cheat in order to compete or just stop competing all together.
The reason why these clubs need to be removed from the football pyramid is because football has been utterly corrupted by what Chelsea, PSG, and City have been allowed to get away with for 20+ years and football fans who don’t support those clubs have been harmed, irrevocably, by the inaction of the authorities. At one level, I appreciate that the Premier League are finally taking some action in punishing Everton. But if this isn’t followed through with and if Chelsea and City aren’t punished 10x harder than Everton – because THEY CAUSED THIS PROBLEM – then it will just be the same shit we’ve seen over and over again with Financial Fair Play. And football will be unwatchable as a result.
*Stripping a club of their titles DOES NOT mean that 2nd place teams win the League. In fact, usually when this happens, which it has in Italy for example, there is just a gap in which team won the League that season.