Opinion

Kenny Archer: Calculators at the ready to work out Premier League survival

Everton and Forest latest in long line of clubs facing points deductions

Huge numbers of Everton fans vented their anger at the Premier League during Sunday’s home game against Manchester United. Picture by Peter Byrne, PA
Huge numbers of Everton fans vented their anger at the Premier League during Sunday’s home game against Manchester United. Picture by Peter Byrne, PA Huge numbers of Everton fans vented their anger at the Premier League during December’s home game against Manchester United. Picture by Peter Byrne, PA

‘Calculators at the ready’ used to be the advice for reporters and supporters as league tables came towards a conclusion, especially on the final day of a season.

In truth, keeping tabs on points tallies and goal differences wasn’t all that difficult, although in the heat of the moment some had to take their shoes and socks off to help with their counting.

Certainly those sums were at another, extremely low level compared to the workings out that may be required to decide which three teams end up relegated from the English Premier League at the end of this campaign.

With at least seven clubs seemingly under threat of demotion there are plenty of permutations surrounding who might be the unfortunate trio.

Forest have been referred over an alleged PSR breach
Forest have been referred over an alleged PSR breach Forest have been referred over an alleged PSR breach (Richard Sellers/PA)

Yet Monday’s announcement that both Everton and Nottingham Forest have been charged by the Premier League with breaching its profit and sustainability rules (PSR) further complicates the picture.

The Blues are already appealing against a 10-point deduction for alleged breaches up to the 2021-22 season.

If that appeal fails and they face a further reduction in their points tally then they could be deep in the relegation zone – and Forest could be there with them.

Q&A: Everton and Forest facing potential Premier League points deductions

In the absence of any trophies for decades, it’s become a bigger badge of honour for Everton supporters that their club boasts the second longest stay in the top flight, after Arsenal (whose accession allegedly involved some boardroom financial shenanigans).

Of course, Luton supporters will remind anyone who will listen that their club was deducted a whopping 30 points at the start of the 2008/09 League Two campaign. The Football Association docked them 10 points over player transfer irregularities – and the Football League removed 20 points for breaking rules on exiting administration.

That deficit proved insurmountable and the Hatters dropped out of the Football League for the first time in their long history.

Premier League Fixtures
Premier League Fixtures Kenilworth Road is undergoing work to be ready for the new season. (Joe Giddens/PA)

Indeed there’s a lengthy list of clubs who have been punished by points deductions.

It has happened to a ‘big club’ too, twice in fact: Leeds United had 10 points deducted in 2006/07 and then 15 points the following season.

Undoubtedly those deductions would have attracted much more attention had Leeds been in the top flight when they occurred, rather than the Championship and League One respectively.

There has been a previous Premier League victim too – Portsmouth, in 2010, who lost nine points after entering administration.

Still, such punishments obviously matter to clubs at all levels. A points deduction even led to the demise of Bury in 2019, with the Shakers pushed out of the Football League altogether.

Manchester City acknowledge risk of charges after posting record £712m revenue

There may well be limited sympathy among certain support bases, and not just those whose clubs are also at risk of relegation from the Premier League. Liverpool fans of a particular vintage still sing a song that lists three teams they hate – and two of those are Everton and Nottingham Forest (you can probably guess the other one).

Similarly, Derby County have had plenty of financial troubles themselves, and were deducted a total of 21 points in 2021/22, leading to their relegation from the Championship, so they’ll be laughing it up at the prospect of their arch-rivals Forest going down in this way.

Yet even many such chuckling supporters would probably still prefer their rivals to be relegated in the honest, old-fashioned way, by being one of the three worst teams on the pitches.

Everton are well clear of such lowly status this season; without any deduction the Toffees would be comfortably in mid-table.

Forest are probably good enough to avoid automatic relegation too – but a points deduction would change the arithmetic.

The gut instinct of most football fans is probably that survival should be decided by performances on the pitch only.

However, there’s a growing view that some meaningful punishment has to be applied or else these latest financial rules will be meaningless.

If you only fine those who break spending rules then that looks like ‘one law for the rich…’.

Then the cry will come, ‘What about the really rich, though? You know, that lot facing 115 charges going back many more years?’

Apart from the number of charges, one major difference is that Manchester City still maintain that they didn’t break rules.

Everton and Forest appear to accept their guilt, but are pleading mitigating circumstances.

Brennan Johnson has returned to the Wales squad after injury (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Brennan Johnson has returned to the Wales squad after injury (Jonathan Brady/PA) Nottingham Forest delayed selling Brennan Johnson - bringing in more money but perhaps causing them a further PSR problem.

Forest could have kept themselves within the limits by selling Brennan Johnson earlier – but for less money. Holding out for more money took them into a new accounting period, that changeover coming during the transfer window. Work that one out with a pencil.

Everton’s argument includes reference to the spending on their expensive new stadium.

The amount of sympathy for the likes of Everton and Forest is almost in inverse proportion to the vast sums both have spent in the transfer market in recent years.

Both have been living beyond their means, taking arguably reckless risks with their club’s future.

Indeed both knew they were close to the edge of the Premier League limits at certain times but still spent more on transfers.

Sometime such stupidity deserves its own punishment, although of course it’s tough on the fans to suffer for the flaws of the owners.

Everton’s final seven fixtures include games against Burnley, Forest, Brentford, Luton, and Sheffield United. Forest also have to play Burnley and Sheffield United during that period.

Yet even when the games are over, the games will continue in boardrooms and courtrooms.

The wait for the actual final verdict will make VAR delays seem to last only the blink of an eye.

‘Calculators at the ready….’