As Everton pick up the pieces after being docked 10 points for a breach of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, where does it leave the fans?
It is fair to say, the initial reaction is one of anger, disappointment, and inevitability, but also one which appears to have galvanised a unity with the club, which has been missing in recent years.
For some time the phrase ‘typical Everton’ has been bandied about, often to point the finger at failings by individuals. This is different, the fans are squarely gathered behind the club and ready to defend its argument that this sanction is a step too far.
The club’s dramatic drop to second bottom in the Premier League table will inevitably give those clubs around them inspiration and motivation for the rest of the season should Everton’s appeal fail. However, there will be no greater inspiration evident than from those connected to Everton, with a siege mentality already brewing due to what they see as an unfair and disproportionate punishment
When the European Super League breakaway debacle hit the headlines, the backlash was enormous from football fans and many other quarters across Britain and beyond. When the discussion turned to an appropriate punishment, there was a heavy emphasis put on the claim that ‘the fans should not be punished’.
Here, it seems the Everton fans will be the ones to take the hit. They have watched their team turn around a troublesome start to the season, moving away from an-all-too-familiar place over the last two years. Sean Dyche and his players, it could be argued, also find themselves severely disadvantaged through no fault of their own.
Many commentators believe Everton’s argument for mitigating circumstances is credible. Indeed, even the commission itself said the club had not breached the rules to gain a sporting advantage. There are some external bodies who disagree, though.
Everton appear to have been punished for building a soon-to-be-finished stadium. Had the club chosen to remain at a tired and unfit-for-purpose Goodison Park, and not attempted to move the club forward by increasing its commercial viability, the club arguably would not be in this position today.
Everton fans have been dealt a number of below-the-belt blows over several years now, some self-inflicted by the club. This punishment will not be seen as such. I expect those fans to rally, as they did during the past two relegation-threatened seasons. History has shown that in the club’s hour of need, the fans come together to drag the team over the line.
This decision will create a siege mentality which Dyche and his team will undoubtedly use to ensure there will not be a third relegation scrap. It may be their toughest test to date – and the previous ones have been close calls – but fight they must, again, if one of English football’s oldest institutions is to avoid succumbing to a fate not seen for nearly 70 years on the blue side of Merseyside.
Another aspect of the commission’s decision will, of course, focus on the ongoing process involving the ownership of Everton. A 10-point deduction, one can imagine, would have an impact on a buyer and seller agreement. The product is undoubtedly devalued from what it was when the agreement was reached.
777 Partners, the potential new owners of Everton, did not wish to comment on the commission’s decision while the ongoing regulatory process was continuing. However, it is a valid concern of supporters and understandable that it may well have a detrimental effect on the future of the club, which would be taken into account when it comes to the purchase being completed.
Everton’s prospective new owners have shown already that they are wholeheartedly committed to the takeover, something which the £81m of funding of the club’s working capital lays testament to. But their new investment being plunged into a relegation fight at the drop of a hat must be of concern to the American-based investors.
There would also, surely, be a concern among the authorities carrying out the aforementioned regulatory process, that should the sale stall or worst-case scenario collapse it would lead to a financial crisis at the club which nobody would benefit from.
There is no sign that 777 Partners are shaken by the news, but the uncertainty surrounding the whole appeal process will remain a concern for the fanbase.