Why Everton points deduction sent shockwaves through the Premier League

The Premier League table as it stands
Everton have sunk into the relegation zone

An independent commission's decision to dock Everton 10 points for breaching Premier League financial rules could have seismic ramifications, and the fallout is being felt well beyond Goodison.

Stunned Everton fans may take some comfort from the sense they at least now know where they stand. But while the severity of the punishment meted out may have dismayed many, there is a very real danger that the situation facing the club could soon become even more serious.

The most obvious outstanding questions facing Everton are: whether the points deduction will ultimately condemn the club to relegation, and also, what the outcome of any appeal will be.

But it is clearly significant that the chair of the commission said he was "satisfied" that several rival clubs "have potential claims for compensation".

Leicester City and Leeds United (both relegated last season) and Burnley (relegated in 2022), are reportedly pressing ahead with plans to sue Everton for millions of pounds' worth of damages. They have a month to decide if they will pursue.

It would not be the first time such a scenario has unfolded. Back in 2009, for instance, West Ham agreed to pay Sheffield United a reported £20m in compensation as part of a settlement after a long legal dispute over the Carlos Tevez eligibility case. United had launched a claim after being relegated instead of the Tevez-inspired Hammers.

Whether clubs proceed with litigation in this latest case, whether it is successful, and what all this uncertainty may mean for Everton's proposed sale by owner Farhad Moshiri to the US investment firm 777 Partners is unclear. But the doomsday scenario for the Toffees is that the club end up being ordered to pay more in compensation than the new owners can afford, and that administration follows, along with a further nine-point deduction, almost certainly condemning the team to relegation.

But the sense of turmoil does not stop there.

This ruling comes at a time when the finances of other clubs are under scrutiny.

Chelsea are under investigation by both the Premier League and the FA over potential financial rule breaches by the club during Roman Abramovich's ownership tenure.

Earlier this year Manchester City - the dominant force in the game - were hit with 115 charges for alleged breaches of the Premier League's financial rules. They deny wrongdoing.

Given Everton's punishment over one charge, many are now wondering about the scale of sanction these clubs could face - if found guilty, with 30-point deductions or even expulsion being mooted.

Three years ago in rugby, Saracens' enforced relegation from the Premiership for breaking salary cap rules sent shockwaves across the sport. Could something similar really happen in football?

Such is the scale and complexity of these cases, it could be years until they are resolved.

But what is clear is that the ruling on Everton has added to the intrigue and pressure swirling around the Premier League's regulatory process as these controversies rumble on.

It does little for the reputation of the league that so many Everton fans - and some pundits - clearly believe the club is an easy target, and that with an independent football regulator on the horizon, an example has been made of them.

Everton also believe the heaviest points deduction in the league's history is excessive for a £19m over-spend. The club insist various unexpected factors were reasonable mitigation for such losses, and contrast the 10-point deduction with the £3.5m fines applied to the six English teams that were members of the European Super League (ESL) plot in 2021.

The Premier League would deny any suggestion Everton have been singled out, of course, and would make the point that ultimately it was an independent commission that decided the punishment.

Many believe the profit and sustainability rules are there for a very good reason - to prevent clubs living beyond their means, and that it was time they were enforced after years of criticism that the league was too 'hands-off' when it came to regulating owners and levels of spending. Especially in the case of a club whose breach was "serious" and whose culpability was "great", according to the commission.

Clubs that have stuck by these rules will no doubt welcome the ruling, and praise the Premier League for establishing the regulations, and then defending the integrity of the competition by showing it is serious about upholding them.

But the fallout and division that follows could be painful.

The old saying was that 'the table doesn't lie'. That where teams finish in the league is ultimately a fair reflection of their quality. The credibility of any sporting competition depends on this, especially one of the most popular in the world.

In the Premier League this season, that sense of fairness and justice has already been shaken by a crisis of confidence in officiating amid high-profile errors by the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

But what if teams' fates are now increasingly dictated by the calculations of accountants, the arguments of lawyers and the verdicts of commissions, rather than simply the performances of their players? What if past achievements stretching back years are now tainted by rule-breaking, and doubt is cast over titles and relegation battles? What if trust is dented?

Two years after the crisis sparked by the remarkable ESL breakaway attempt, the fear is that the Everton ruling could mark the start of another damaging period of turbulence, in-fighting and litigation for English football.