Since coming into existence in the 2015/16 campaign, many football fans and owners alike have argued that the EFL’s Financial Fair Play rules have been anything but what their name suggests.
The rules state that a club cannot make a loss of more than £39 million before tax, over three years, something which several Championship clubs, vying for promotion to the promised land of the Premier League, have struggled to comply with.
The likes of Birmingham City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday have pushed the boundaries to the brink over the previous three seasons, as they attempted to win the £150 million that comes with promotion.
Birmingham and Wednesday haven’t experienced top flight football since 2011 and 2000 respectively, so neither have had the luxury of the Premier League parachute payments paid to clubs for three seasons after relegation.
This has brought into question the fairness of the Financial Fair Play rules, as clubs dropping down from the Premier League can spend more money without the threat of transfer embargos and points deductions.
Aston Villa are a prime example of this, having spent over £80 million to regain Premier League status. They are among a number of clubs seemingly being rewarded for failure in the top flight, with parachute payments massaging revenue.
Birmingham City fans are all too familiar with the consequences of breaking the £39 million benchmark.
After recording losses in excess of £13 million per year over three years and a £37.5 million loss in just 12 months, breaching the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules, they were hit with a nine-point deduction which tossed them into a relegation battle last season.
Sheffield Wednesday meanwhile are currently in the thick of a battle with the EFL over the same laws.
The Owls took the calculated risk of spending big in the 2015/16 season, but it didn’t pay off as they were beaten in the playoff final by Hull City. The following year, owner Dejphon Chansiri further increased investment in the hope of bringing Premier League football back to Hillsborough for the first time in over 15 years.
Two years later, Wednesday were handed a soft transfer embargo after handing in accounts several months late, meaning they could only make free transfers over the summer.
The Owls came out of that soft embargo at the end of July but again found themselves in hot water, this time over the sale of Hillsborough in 2018 to ‘Sheffield 3’, a holdings company created by owner Chansiri.
In effect, the Thai businessman sold the stadium to himself for a reported £60 million, seemingly exploiting a loophole in FFP. The EFL are now bringing charges against the club, who are accused of manoeuvring accounts to stay within the confines of the profit and sustainability rules.
Without the sale of Hillsborough, The Owls would’ve made a loss in the region of £57 million. The consequences of the charge could ruin Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion push this season.
Currently sitting eighth in the Championship table, they could slip to 22nd if given a 12-point deduction. However, many Owls fans are questioning why their club is being punished while Derby County, whose owner Mel Morris sold Derby’s Pride Park stadium to himself for an even higher figure of £80 million, have avoided such a fate.
Many may disagree with the EFL’s financial regulations, but if the rules are there then they should apply to all clubs, not just a few. If the EFL are to show consistency and toughness, then Derby County, not just Sheffield Wednesday, should face a point deduction.