For Everton and the Premier League, the relegation battle is not the end

Everything is clear at the top of the Premier League.

Manchester City, with a regularity that has become unavoidable, are once again the champions of the English Premier League. Its triumph over second-placed Arsenal was sealed last weekend, and those two clubs – along with Saudi-owned Newcastle United and City rivals Manchester United – have already secured all four league places in the League of Nations. champions next season.

The drama in England is now at the bottom of the table, where three clubs will enter the final day of the season this weekend locked in a high-stakes fight to retain their place in the league, and where an investigation into the finances of one of these clubs – Everton – means that whatever happens on the pitch may not be the final word on who gets relegated.

And that worries the Premier League.

The problem is this: Everton’s financial losses of £371.8m between 2018 and 2021 (about $460m) were more than three times the cap imposed by the league. In March, the Premier League accused the club of breaching its cost control rules and appointed an independent arbitrator to investigate. According to the rules of the league, the referee is the only one authorized to decide the case and to impose possible sanctions.

In the weeks that followed, however, rival clubs pressed for a decision before the start of next season. They include, but are not limited to, teams whose future is inextricably linked to Everton’s arrival in the league, each of them aware that a potential points deduction for financial breaches – if it comes before the new season – could seal Everton’s relegation instead of their own.

The Premier League – already under pressure to announce a decision in a separate, long-running Manchester City spending case – has also been pushing for a resolution. According to people familiar with internal league discussions, Premier League officials have pressured the head of the independent commission to make a decision ahead of next season.

The lawyer hired to oversee cases of league rule violations, Murray Rosen, however, refused to rush, according to people familiar with the exchanges. He has even felt the need at times to remind league officials of the independence of the Premier League judicial panel.

Both cases come as English football is set to adopt an independent government-appointed regulator, a position that threatens the Premier League’s ability to keep decisions on contentious matters internally. Critics of the league argue that such a regulator has become necessary to control a growing group of owners from all corners of the world, including nation states with access to seemingly unlimited pools of capital and finance. lawyers.

For now, Everton’s aim – like that of bottom-table rivals Leicester City and Leeds United – is to avoid the ignominy (and potential financial ruin) of relegation. Only one of the three clubs will be spared that fate on Sunday, and Everton, a fixture in the Premier League since their inception in 1992, currently hold a slim advantage. That’s one place – and two points – above Leicester and Leeds, and need only match their rivals’ results on Sunday to finish above them in the standings.

For relegated teams, the loss of a Premier League spot and the tens of millions of dollars in revenue that membership guarantees can be a devastating blow. The Premier League’s so-called parachute payments help cushion some of the financial losses for up to three seasons, but the consequences of the new difficult circumstances often lead to the gutting of club budgets and the departure of players, coaches and other staff. members.

The prospect that the fate could fall on one club, then be reversed later, has irked even Premier League sides not involved in this year’s relegation fight. A Premier League executive recently expressed surprise that there hasn’t been more coverage of the claims against Everton and the lack of urgency to try them; the official equated the financial rule violation charges with doping.

The Premier League declined to comment on Everton’s investigation or any effort to expedite it to a conclusion. Everton signaled they would dig in and fight any possible penalties; when the Premier League charges were announced in March, the club said it was “ready to vigorously defend” its position before the committee.

Even without the threat of relegation, Everton are a club in disarray. Its owner, Iranian-British businessman Farhad Moshiri, has spent hundreds of millions on players since buying the club, only to see his crater of on-field results and a high-profile stadium project risk to stop due to lack of funds. The search for a new owner, announced earlier this year, has so far failed to produce a savior.

The club’s financial problems only worsened when Moshiri’s longtime business partner, billionaire Alisher Usmanov, was sanctioned by the British government and the European Union for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir V. . Cheese fries. It forced Everton to end relationships with companies linked to Usmanov, who in recent years had invested millions in the club and projects like the team’s new half-built stadium.

Everton fans protested his ownership for much of the season – as they did last year when the team narrowly avoided relegation. On at least one occasion this season Everton management have been advised by police not to attend games.

nytimes sport

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