Premier League hits back at Andy Burnham over Everton ‘abuse of process’ allegations

Everton fans - Premier League hits back at Andy Burnham over Everton 'abuse of process' allegations
Everton fans hold up cards in protest of the club's 10-point deduction - Getty Images/Michael Regan

The Premier League has told Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, that his allegations of “abuse of process” around the 10-point deduction for his club last week are wrong.

Everton season-ticket holder Burnham published his letter to Alison Brittain, chair of the Premier League, on Sunday, claiming a flawed process should make the sanction “null and void” and that the commission should begin anew in hearing Everton’s case. He was highly critical at what he saw as an attempt by the league to introduce new sanction rules midway through the hearing into Everton’s financial breaches.

Brittain has told Burnham that the Premier League refuted in its entirety the central allegation that the Everton decision came about as a result of what he described on Sunday as an “abuse of process”.

Everton had eventually admitted breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) after more than two years of correspondence with the league’s executive over concerns about their finances. That culminated in the charges by the league this year. The case was then heard by an independent commission led by the KC, David Phillips, over five days, ending in the 10-point deduction.

Over the course of the hearing, both sides were invited to lay out what they thought was an appropriate sanction for the PSR breach. Everton had lost £304 million over the monitoring period in question, almost three times the permitted losses. Approved add-backs had more than halved those losses in their PSR compliancy to around £120 million but the club were unable to justify further exceptions to the commission to take them under the threshold.

The Premier League recommended a fixed starting point of a six-point deduction and then a further point for every £5 million by which the club had exceeded the PSR threshold. Everton suggested that a transfer embargo might be more appropriate. Burnham claimed in his letter over the weekend that the Premier League sanction recommendation was “akin to the Government handing new sentencing guidelines to a judge in the middle of a … trial”.

Andy Burnham (C) - Premier League hit back at Andy Burnham over Everton 'abuse of process' allegations
Andy Burnham (centre) spoke to journalists at Goodison Park on Sunday - PA/Peter Byrne

Brittain, a former chief executive at Whitbread plc, wrote to Burnham this week to address his points individually. She explained that a commission hearing a case independently ordinarily invites submissions from both sides on appropriate sanctions. She added that all Premier League clubs had been given the opportunity by the league to agree on a fixed set of sanctions in 2020 but the consensus among the 20 at the time – Everton included – was not to do so.

There are only two offences for which the Premier League has fixed sanctions. A club going into financial administration will immediately be deducted nine points. Those seeking to join an unsanctioned competition will, as of 2021, after the European Super League breakaway, be deducted 30 points.

The clubs have agreed in the past that a fixed tariff system would restrict the discretion of an independent commission. It was also agreed that it would interfere with that commission’s capacity to consider aggravating or mitigating factors around an offence. An open system of sanctioning, in which punishments were left to the discretion of a commission, is seen as a greater deterrent.

Brittain also told Burnham that the Premier League worked with Everton continually over the period of the club’s breach. That involved helping the club to monitor wages and transfer costs and regular warnings over the health of their finances. Ultimately, as the commission found, it was Everton’s refusal to stop spending on players that put them in breach of PSR and vulnerable to a points deduction.

The Premier League’s independent commissions are put together by external counsel Murray Rosen KC, the head of the league’s judicial panel, who selects individuals according to their skill and experience in regulatory matters around football. That process works independent of the Premier League while the league’s legal department effectively works as the prosecution.

Separately, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters had written letters explaining the process – and answering questions – to Steve Rotheram, the metro mayor of Liverpool city region, and Kim Johnson, Labour MP for Liverpool, Riverside.