WOTMT
The EFL P&S Rules: What Is To Be Done?
Thoughts on a thing that is impacting on our club

I write this the day after a fantastic win at Forest. It was game in which we started well at a good tempo, got into their faces, played some good football and were ruthless in front of goal. It was tremendous to see Jordan Rhodes bag a hat-trick as part of a fine team performance, both he and the team have to maintain those standards going forward. As we now sit we are fifth in the table with 36 points from 22 games at 1.64 points per game, which if sustained would give us 75 points and a play-off place. Gary Monk has done well to build a team out of a squad that was not of his making and to entice performance levels out of individual players that we were not sure they had in them. It will just be the ‘Wednesday Way’ to go and get sufficient points deducted to blow all those hopes out of the water!

That EFL Disciplinary Commission needs to take place as quickly as possible so that the club and fans know our fate and plan accordingly. As I have said before EFL must think they have a decent chance of securing a decision in their favour otherwise they wouldn’t have started this process. Remember it is an independent process with the club nominating one member, EFL another and an independent barrister chairing the hearing. EFL also issued a pretty robust response to the club statement on the charges – referring to new evidence. It is clear that the club believe that key figures at EFL gave them assurances that led to a “legitimate expectation” on the club’s behalf that the transaction would be approved. Whilst it might be good evidence to present in mitigation it doesn’t sound like the club has nailed on approval from EFL but hopefully they have enough to throw doubt in the mind of the Disciplinary Commission to help get any points deduction reduced. I was slightly surprised at the club claiming that EFL were acting unlawfully and that they were considering legal action and seeking compensation – it hasn’t scared EFL off so far and I worry that an over robust approach might lead to an increase in any penalty due to aggravating factors. We will see.

As I have said on here before I absolutely agree that the P&S rules for the Championship are bonkers when those rules are operating in the context of PL clubs being relegated into the Championship with parachute payments, whilst also being allowed higher allowable losses than the other clubs. Academic research has established that it does give these ex PL clubs and inbuilt advantage, it is also likely to drive up wage bills. It therefore encourages clubs to spend to try to compete which can then put a club’s financial stability into question. EFL are right to try to control what some owners can do to football club by pushing the boat out but then pulling out the engine and the oars to leave it drifting. However, EFL have to do it in such a way that retains competitiveness, the current system clearly doesn’t.

I would prefer it if the EFL (which is actually the clubs) were prepared to seize control of the agenda and their own futures by dealing with the PL much more aggressively. They should tell the PL that clubs with parachute payments will not be allowed in the Championship, and take away higher allowable losses too. The PL may then threaten to pull the plug on so-called ‘solidarity payments’ and stop relegation into the Championship and promotion into the PL. It would be painful financially for Championship clubs and the transition would need to be managed until a new more sustainable model was reached. But EFL clubs would be in control of their own destiny - “Taking Back Control” as the saying goes. The PL would then be left with a league in which only a handful of clubs can win anything and which would be like Groundhog Day – who wants to be part of that? EFL clubs have a much stronger negotiating position with the PL, if they will only take the PL blinkers off and see it. The EFL may then be able to secure a deal with the PL that doesn’t undermine competitiveness and financial sustainability in the EFL.

An alternative approach would be for Championship clubs to agree a new approach to profit and sustainability that would allow those clubs who wish to throw money at trying to compete with ex PL clubs to do so. But, that would have to be on a sustainable basis such as at the start or each season every club has to set a budget that is lodged with EFL, if that budget requires a cash injection from the owner it has to be cash and has to be lodged in the form of a bond with EFL before the season starts. That would allow an owner to spend what they want up to the budget set but they can’t rack up losses and then walk away – they owner remains responsible and accountable for the decision he/she has made. The EFL would have to regularly monitor that the budget is being stuck to, and only EFL could release the bond to balance the books when needed. I guess not enough clubs would vote for this easier as it would mean the “two speed” Championship becoming more entrenched.

The alternative to a wholly new approach, or a radically changed P&S system, is maintenance of the status quo in which clubs have a 2 year window to throw money at it and then re-trench if it doesn’t succeed. Or, a club finds an exceptional manager who can achieve promotion to the PL on a modest budget. The first is not good for club management and the second is possible but not likely. More forcibly applying the existing P&S regime simply plays into the hands of the PL and the clubs relegated from it.

Because the EFL cubs won’t or can’t take control of this agenda is why I favour an Independent Regulator for football that is backed up by statutory powers – that Regulator would have the power to impose a model of club management and a financial regime that is sustainable and competitive.

Has anyone got any better ideas?

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06.12.2020
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