For Everton and the Premier League, relegation battle is not over yet

In the top league of the Premier League, everything is clear.

Manchester City, with what has become inevitable regularity, again champion of the English Premier League. His victory over runners-up Arsenal was sealed over the weekend and the two clubs – along with Saudi-owned Newcastle United and City’s rivals Manchester United – have already secured four league spots in the Champions League. next season.

Drama in England is now at the bottom of the league table, where three clubs will enter the last day of the season this weekend battling at high stakes to keep their league places, and where an investigation into the finances of one of these clubs – Everton – means everyone what happens on the field may not be the last word on who will be eliminated.

And that worries the Premier League.

Here’s the problem: Everton’s £371.8m financial loss between 2018 and 2021 (approximately $460m) is more than three times the limit set by the league. In March, the Premier League accused the club of violating cost control rules and ordered an independent referee to investigate. According to the rules of the league, only the arbitrator has the right to decide the case and impose any possible fines.

However, in the weeks that followed, rival clubs pressed for a decision before the start of the next season. These include, but are not limited to, those teams whose future is inextricably tied to Everton’s league finish, and each of which is aware that a potential deduction for points for financial misconduct – if it occurs before the start of the new season – could seal Everton’s relegation. instead of their own.

Premier League – already under pressure to announce decision in a separate and longstanding case involving Manchester City’s expenses. — also quietly insisted on permission. Premier League officials have lobbied an independent commission to make a decision before next season, according to people familiar with internal league discussions.

However, according to several people familiar with the exchanges, the members of the commission abandoned the rush. At times, these members even felt the need to remind league officials of the commission’s independence.

Both cases come as English football is poised to accept a government-appointed independent regulator, a post that threatens the Premier League’s ability to make its own decisions on contentious issues. Critics of the league argue that such a regulator has become necessary to control a group of owners increasingly drawn from all corners of the world, including nation-states with access to seemingly unlimited reserves of capital and lawyers.

For now, Everton’s goal – like bottom-table rivals Leicester City and Leeds United – is to avoid the ignominy (and potential financial ruin) of relegation. Only one in three clubs will escape that fate on Sunday, and Everton, who have played in the Premier League since its inception in 1992, currently have a marginal lead. He is one place – and two points – clear of Leicester and Leeds and he only needs to equal his opponents on Sunday to finish above them in the standings.

For relegated teams, losing a place in the Premier League and the tens of millions of dollars in income that membership guarantees could be a devastating blow. So-called parachute payments from the Premier League help mitigate some of the financial losses for as many as three seasons, but the consequences of new cramped circumstances often lead to club budgets being gutted and players, coaches and other staff leaving. members.

The prospect that fate could fall on the club and then turn around has angered even Premier League teams not in this year’s relegation fight. A Premier League executive recently expressed surprise at the lack of more publicity and urgency for the Everton lawsuits; The official equated the accusations of violating financial rules with doping.

The Premier League declined to comment on Everton’s investigation or any attempt to hasten its completion. Everton made it clear they would fight any potential penalties; When the Premier League allegations were announced in March, the club said they were “ready to vigorously defend” their position before the commission.

However, even without the threat of relegation, Everton are a club in disarray. Its owner, Iranian-British businessman Farhad Moshiri, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on players since buying the club, only to have its on-pitch results and highly publicized stadium project run the risk of stalling due to lack of funds. A search for a new ownerannounced earlier this year, so far has not brought a savior.

The club’s financial troubles only worsened when Moshiri’s longtime business partner, billionaire Alisher Usmanov, was subjected to sanctions by the British government and the European Union for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This forced Everton to cut ties with companies associated with Usmanov, who has poured millions into the club and projects such as the team’s unfinished new stadium in recent years.

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