Nottingham Forest sailed too close to wind – after 30 signings this charge is self-inflicted

Evangelos Marinakis - Nottingham Forest sailed too close to wind – after 30 signings this charge is self-inflicted

Shortly after Nottingham Forest’s promotion to the Premier League was achieved, Evangelos Marinakis vowed to provide “the ammunition” to establish the club as a force in English football.

While no supporter could question his ambition, Marinakis’ grand plans always risked that ammunition being fired back at themselves.

Thirty signings arrived in a spend of around £150 million, after an unprecedented transfer assault that has ultimately resulted in the club being charged with breaching financial regulations.

Do the rules need changing? Absolutely. It is an unlevel playing field and strangles competitiveness.

Forest will argue that the rules limit billionaire owners like Marinakis from investing properly, and how the current process is all loaded towards the ‘big six’ who can rely on far greater commercial and matchday revenue.

Marinakis was never going to waste the opportunity to try and maintain Forest’s momentum, after growing frustrated with restrictions in the Championship.

He is an owner who has transformed Forest, and raised expectations. he has cleared debt, and provided millions in improving facilities and the matchday experience. Staff at the club often say that he is always keen to help when he can, and is fully engaged in the pursuit of improvement.

Yet PSR [Profit and Sustainability Rules] is there for a reason and all clubs signed up to it at some stage.

Forest have allegedly broken those rules in their first season back in the top division for 23 years.

Many other clubs, including Manchester United, Newcastle, Wolves and Aston Villa, have reluctantly been forced to refresh their entire transfer strategies to comply with PSR.

Last season, Leicester were so scared of future breaches that they reined in spending to such a degree that you could make a reasonable argument that it resulted in relegation.

Forest now face an anxious wait to discover if they receive sanctions later this season, which could range from a transfer ban or fine to a points deduction.

Nuno Espirito Santo has made a bright start since replacing the popular Steve Cooper, but having points taken away would thrust the club into a relegation battle.

There was always a fear that Forest were sailing too close to the wind. They had no option but to build a new team after promotion, but not to such crazy levels.

For all the impressive signings such as Morgan Gibbs-White, Taiwo Awoniyi and Danilo, there were also poor and/or unnecessary additions including Jesse Lingard, Emmanuel Dennis and Jonjo Shelvey. Some signings are still yet to kick a ball for the club.

Jesse Lingard while a Nottingham Forest player last season
Nottingham Forest's spending helped them stay in the Premier League but signings such as Jesse Lingard were misses - Getty Images/Jan Kruger

As the wage bill rocketed, players were added without any major sales going the other way.

So what is the next stage?

Their main defence will centre on the sale of Brennan Johnson to Tottenham on deadline day, as we first reported on January 2.

By turning down bids of £30 million and £35 million from Brentford in June and July, and eventually securing £47.5 million, they followed what Profit and Sustainability should be all about.

It is an entirely different case to Everton, whose alleged breaches were over a longer period of time with financial losses for five years running and what was regarded as consistent overspending.

There will also be renewed scrutiny on Manchester City and their 115 charges- which they strongly deny - with the investigation seemingly moving at slug-like pace, yet it is a far more complex affair.

Forest do have an ace up their sleeve in “super silk” Nick De Marco KC, known as the Lionel Messi of sports lawyers.

De Marco will represent Forest in front of an independent commission and has an outstanding past record on Financial Fair Play cases.

Earlier this season he also successfully defended Harry Toffolo from a lengthy ban after the Forest left-back’s 375 historic betting breaches.

He will be fully prepared, and Forest also aim to maintain transparent dialogue with the Premier League.

Everton’s response to their charge last year was defiant, insisting they would “strongly contest” the allegations and Forest will decline going down a similar path by arguing their case while still collaborating with the Premier League.

Marinakis will likely adopt a siege mentality and implore the club to circle the wagons, using the charge as fuel to boost their hopes of securing a third consecutive campaign in the Premier League.

Lessons must be learned, and while his financial support and motives are admirable, Forest must avoid this ever happening again.

While the rules will always be debated, this charge is a wound that feels entirely self-inflicted.

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