Sean Dyche may have thought Everton’s enduring Premier League status relies on Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s ability to rediscover his scoring boots. He was wrong. The club’s fate will most likely be decided by lawyers, not footballers.
Laurence Rabinowitz KC, the super silk hired to lead Everton’s appeal against their 10-point penalty, will become this season’s Barry Horne or Abdoulaye Doucouré if he succeeds in eradicating the existing punishment for breaching Profit and Sustainability rules and in the process undermines the latest charge.
Everton’s initial fear of being hit with a new Premier League charge for overspending gave way to exasperation when it was finally confirmed on Monday. Should it lead to a further points deduction, there will be indignation.
The Merseyside club believes it will not come to that, believing a flawed and illogical process will be exposed when their appeal against their first breach and subsequent penalty is heard in the coming weeks. As recent history proves, nobody can be so confident about that outcome.
Everton banking on stadium costs being taken into account
The best case scenario for Everton is that an independent commission will agree that the mitigating factors regarding the spiralling costs of their stadium ought to have been given more consideration, thus reducing the points penalty. If they do, the basis for the latest Premier League action will also be undermined.
At the heart of Everton’s legal argument is the question of ‘double jeopardy’ in that the club believes it is being threatened with punishment based on the same sets of accounts, or at the very least a time frame that absorbs 75 per cent of them.
Everton argue that their latest accounts for 2022-23, which were submitted before December 31 but will not be made public until after their appeal, demonstrate they are an institution which has embraced austerity.
“What more could we have done?” seems to be the overriding sentiment at Goodison Park.
Given their spending over the previous three accounting years, however, it was always going to be a tough ask to stay below the threshold of cumulative losses of £105 million, as per Premier League rules.
Although it is not clear yet how and where Everton are considered to have overspent – they speculate it is again due to interest on stadium costs – it was also a year in which the club continued to invest in the team signing Dwight McNeil, Amadou Onana and James Garner, while Jordan Pickford penned a new contract. Until the accounts are published and the Premier League’s reasons for the charge detailed, there is ambiguity as to how much the latest threat of punishment is entirely due to the legacy of Farhad Moshiri’s financial mismanagement, or whether Everton continuing to trade with an element of normality under abnormal conditions has played its part.
Everton sold Anthony Gordon for £50 million and Richarlison for £60 million last season, but they also continued to suffer significant commercial setbacks as a result of the termination of Alisher Usmanov’s business relationship with Moshiri, while stadium costs mounted.
There also remains a point of contention regarding whether the interest paid on the loans taken by Moshiri were exclusively related to the stadium and infrastructure costs, or were in fact being diverted towards working capital for other aspects of the business, including transfer fees and salaries.
Accountants and lawyers will argue the finer details while supporters and players wonder how and why it could have come to this.
There may be a cruel irony that while Dyche continues to cut costs with football operations, the mounting legal fees might take them over Premier League spending limits next time.