It’s aggrieved Everton against the world and that may not be such a bad thing

<span>Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA</span>
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Goodison Park is always noisy, it’s just that sometimes that noise is roars and sometimes it’s boos. When Everton kick off against Manchester United on Sunday, it’s safe to say the mood will be fervently supportive. The annual putting aside of differences to rally behind the flag and fight relegation will come early this season: there’s nothing like the sense of a common enemy to pull people together.

The enemy here is legion. It’s the shambolic leadership of their own club, it’s the Premier League for bringing charges and pushing for a 10-point deduction and it’s the independent panel for finding them guilty and imposing the sanction.

Related: Everton players and fans will be fired up by points penalty, asserts Sean Dyche

It might also be the prospective new owners: Everton may be in a frying pan but nobody can look at 777 Partners, their track record and the Fifa sanction against them over unpaid transfer fees and not fear they may represent a fire. Even Genoa, who had been held up as a success story for 777 after promotion last season, stand on the brink of bankruptcy. It’s Everton against the world and in the short term, to galvanise minds and stiffen the sinews, that may not be such a bad thing.

There’s a sense that, if you have to be docked 10 points, this might not be the worst season for it to happen. Sheffield United and Luton are clubs of obviously limited resources, while Burnley have been unexpectedly poor. Once it became apparent that Vincent Kompany’s side were not going to produce at the higher level the form that enabled them to dominate the Championship, the three promoted sides felt like a probable bottom three. For those lower mid-table sides glancing anxiously over their shoulders, Bournemouth’s slow start under Andoni Iraola has offered an additional buffer.

Before the deduction, Everton were sitting comfortably nine points clear of the drop: they have been thrust back into the pack rather than being given a gap to traverse even to get back into the relegation battle. The only caveat is that all four of those strugglers have had front-loaded fixture lists: there had been only two games between them before this weekend, while all but one of Everton’s remaining games before the halfway point of the season are against teams in the top half.

In the circumstances, United represent almost the perfect opponents as old-school glamour and representatives of the establishment. For all that, in reality they are a cautionary tale in unregulated capitalism and the fallibility of inexpert non-local ownership. United may have won four of their last five league games but they’re not playing well and, as such, represent not merely a potentially notable scalp but a plausible one. The memory of Phil Neville clattering Cristiano Ronaldo to jolt Everton into life in 2008-09 will haunt Sunday afternoon.

But there is also the fact that United were one of the leaders of the English Super League push. Whataboutery is the death of justice – no regulatory body should fail to punish an offence just because other offences go largely unpunished – but equally Everton fans are entitled to ask why spending a bit too much money costs 10 points while conspiring against the league itself brought merely a shared £22m fine.

And that’s where the wider ramifications become so fascinating. Leaving aside the Super League issue, if this is the penalty for being convicted of one breach of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations, when there are the mitigating factors of the pandemic, sanctions against a major sponsor and a player whose contract had to be terminated for non-footballing reasons, when the club have seemingly been relatively cooperative, what might the sanction be for, say, 115 breaches, some of them relating to a lack of cooperation, in a pre-Covid world? In Everton’s case, the Premier League asked for a sanction of six points plus one for each £5m in breach: that logic could see hundreds of points docked from other clubs.

Then there’s the issue of compensation for those relegated while Everton stayed up. In 2009, West Ham reached an out-of-court settlement with Sheffield United of £15m (plus £5m if the club were sold in the following five years, as they were), having been fined for breaching rules on third-party ownership in regard to Carlos Tevez, who had scored the winner at Manchester United on the final day of the 2006-07 season to keep the Hammers up.

If £20m was the tariff then, it’s safe to assume the equivalent now would be significantly higher (although it may be harder to prove direct causation than in the Tévez case), particularly given as many as five clubs have been granted the right to pursue claims. And again, however large that fee might be, it would be dwarfed by the potential figures were a side that had qualified regularly for Europe over a longer period to be found guilty.

Related: Everton’s deduction is a tremor – City and Chelsea may face the earthquake

From the broader perspective, that is perhaps the most salient aspect of the Everton punishment. It’s nine months now since the 115 charges against Manchester City were announced, for alleged offences dating back to 2009. Even before the revelations from the Cyprus confidential files, the Premier League was investigating Chelsea’s finances from as long ago as 2012.

With the conclusion of Everton’s case with such severe consequences, the lack of resolution in the case against City becomes more striking – and the tariff now is set should they be found guilty. There are two fundamental issues at stake here: the Premier League can prosecute clubs of Everton’s stature, but can they prosecute the state- and oligarch-run clubs? And if they can, with City charged and Chelsea under investigation, 12 of the last 19 league titles are in some sort of doubt.

Whatever the eventual outcomes, unless there is an overtly rigorous and thorough process, the question will linger of whether it is even possible to regulate the modern Premier League. Everton’s anger may be justifiably directed at those who have run them so poorly, it may be directed at the apparent arbitrariness of the process, it may in part be self-pitying, but it is also a cry against the fear that modern football has fallen into the hands of forces beyond regulation.