Andros Townsend is right - Everton's latest points deduction 'makes a mockery of the Premier League'

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Everton have been deducted two more points for breaking Premier League spending rules - but the process has caused chaos.

Andros Townsend has an interesting perspective on the confusion surrounding Everton’s latest points deduction, which has seen them docked two points for breaches of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) which occurred in the 2022/23 season.

As a former Everton player himself, he will likely feel some sympathy for his former colleagues. As a current Luton Town player, and therefore playing for a side whose Premier League survival hinges on the outcome of the various disciplinary proceedings surrounding Everton and Nottingham Forest, he will see the other side as well.

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His summary of the situation – that it “makes a mockery of the Premier League,” as he told BBC Radio 5 Live, is pretty much on the nose. For all sorts of reasons, the process that the Premier League has used to reach their eventual points deductions – or more accurately the lack of it – has created a chaotic situation which has left almost nobody happy with the outcome.

A major part of the current problem is the ongoing appeals process. Nottingham Forest are currently appealing their four-point deduction, which has left them one place above the relegation zone and with goal difference alone separating them from Luton, and Everton may yet appeal the latest deduction that they have endured. The Premier League has set a backstop date of 24 May for those appeals to be resolved – after the league season has finished.

As a consequence, we may well end up with a situation in which the team apparently relegated on the last day of the season survive. A team like Luton could easily go into their final game believing they just need a point to be safe, and play accordingly, only to go down after battling for a draw.

"We don't know what's going to happen with appeals. We were probably celebrating when Everton got 10 points taken off them and then they got four given back and we're back in the relegation zone,” Townsend continued. “So we take out the deductions to take away the confusion and we'll see at the end of the season."

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The Premier League’s failure to ensure there was a clear timeline from investigation to charge to punishment has been a massive issue. Everton’s first six-point deduction (reduced from an initial 10) was for breaches which occurred in the 2021/22 season – but they know find themselves punished twice in the same season for offences which happened in different years.

Part of the written reasoning provided by the Premier League for the two-point deduction this time around acknowledged that the fact Everton had already been punished this year reduced their latest punishment – which itself seems unfair on other teams in the relegation battle. Essentially, Everton have had what the Premier League believed to be a reasonable punishment reduced because of the league’s own confused and convoluted process. If a ‘double jeopardy’ situation – in other words, Everton being sanctioned twice for overlapping offences – is considered unreasonable, why were they charged in the first place? And if it is reasonable, why are they being treated more gently because of it? The middle ground the Premier League have discovered seems deeply unsatisfactory.

To complicate matters further, the written reasons also state that there needs to be further investigation into Everton’s accounts to establish whether there had been additional breaches which may require a further investigation – but that won’t be resolved until next year. So Everton could, potentially, be punished twice in the same year whilst also spreading out one of the punishments into next. That’s a messy outcome, to say the very least.

Everton themselves, whilst yet to confirm whether they will appeal the latest ruling, have said that they are “extremely concerned” by the “inconsistency” of the punishments handed down. That, too, is a part of the issue. By handing the final decisions on punishments over to different independent panels, the Premier League have opened the process up to inconsistencies, and it becomes hard for an outsider to parse out whether the punishments are proportionate compared to each other even with written reasons provided.

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There is no question that both Everton and Forest broke the rules and knowingly put themselves in a position where a breach was possible or even probable. Townsend suggested, probably not entirely unfairly, that he thought that “clubs just thought it would be a fine and a slap on the wrists and get on with it." As it is, the Premier League are right to back up their own rules with significant punishments, but the lack of rational, transparent process and apparent consistency over the final decision on sanctions leaves them open to criticism.

Meanwhile, the league have not done a good job of making the case for the importance of PSR and of strong sanctions resulting from breaches. The coverage, therefore, has been almost entirely negative, and moved the focus from the mistakes made by the clubs involved and onto the mistakes made by the top flight’s governing body. They have failed to make the case for their own actions, and that doesn’t help with the perception that the whole farrago is more of a mess than a carefully-considered process which helps to control overspending by clubs and maintain competitive balance. All the Premier League have done is to make the argument for looser restrictions, something its clubs will seize on and already have, based on reports suggesting a farcical ‘luxury tax’ as a punishment for overspend.

It seems likely that the Premier League will mostly just be desperate for a situation in which neither Everton nor Forest go down regardless of their deductions, thus avoiding a car-crash situation at the end of the season in which a side like Luton, or Burnley perhaps, feel hard done by. If either side survived by a fine margin only to have the rug pulled out from under them when Everton or Forest have some points reinstated after the end of the season, there would be an immense amount of anger to go around.

And that anger would be very well-placed. The PSR probably serve an important and necessary purpose, and points deductions are almost certainly the best way to ensure clubs toe the line – but the way the entire affair has been handled, from timing to process to communication, has been a complete shambles.

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