Premier League

MARTIN SAMUEL: Sue Everton? Burnley only have themselves to blame for their demise

Daily Mail Online

Burnley won a single league game between the start of the season and February 18. But that wasn’t their fault: it was Everton‘s.

The single point in 12 across the last four games was down to Everton, too. And no points in March. And the lone point gleaned in each of August, September and January. All Everton’s doing, all their responsibility.

That’s the great thing now that every season ends in litigation. Nobody is answerable for their performance any more, unless it’s good. Manchester City aren’t trying to pin their fourth title in five years on anybody else, but Burnley are treading in the footsteps of Middlesbrough, Wycombe and Sheffield United by implying that they lost football matches through a third party.

Burnley only have themselves to blame for their Premier League relegation, not others Burnley only have themselves to blame for their Premier League relegation, not others

Burnley only have themselves to blame for their Premier League relegation, not others

Not forgetting Leeds. They entered into a pact with Burnley that sought to blame Everton’s spending in the event of relegation this season. So, if Leeds had lost at Brentford, the 79 goals they conceded – 12 more than any other team that stayed up – and a record 101 yellow cards, plus three reds, would all have been laid at Everton’s door.

And it’s obvious why Burnley are angling for compensation from the Premier League. The club are owned by ALK Capital who took out a significant loan to complete their leveraged deal. In the event of relegation, a large part of £65million needs repaying.

If they can palm this off on the league, by claiming they allowed Everton to breach financial rules, then with the parachute payment and a healthy lump from the sale of goalkeeper Nick Pope, they should be well placed for a tilt at a first-time return to the top division. If not, it is going to be difficult.

The club are owned by ALK Capital (above: managing partner Alan Pace), who took out a loan The club are owned by ALK Capital (above: managing partner Alan Pace), who took out a loan

The club are owned by ALK Capital (above: managing partner Alan Pace), who took out a loan

James Tarkowski will leave, but on a free transfer and the Championship will be competitive next season, as always. This is the norm now. Middlesbrough and Wycombe found a scapegoat in Derby’s financial recklessness, Sheffield United in West Ham’s purchase of Carlos Tevez, which breached third-party regulations. A ruling by Lord Justice Griffiths is to blame here, setting the precedent that a club aren’t responsible for their results.

There were always going to be ramifications and it has taken two decades for them to take hold, but this is the third season in succession to end with legal challenges around relegation.

In 2020, there was uncertainty over the fate of Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, while the EFL litigated to send Macclesfield down, following pressure from Stevenage, who were reprieved; Wycombe sued Derby over their relegation last year, and now this. Some years after his passing, Griffiths’ singular interpretation of a season is having the chilling effect predicted.

Now it is argued that Everton’s financial extravagance, not Burnley’s failings as a team, have decided the final relegation place. We are on our way to becoming Brazil where Recife won the 1987 title in 2017, thanks to 30 years of legal wrangling. Who wouldn’t want to see that: a thrilling finale followed by several years of courtroom drama to see if what you watched was genuine. In a few years football would have about as many viewers as Piers Morgan.

Everton have posted losses of £371.8million over three years, much to Burnley's frustration Everton have posted losses of £371.8million over three years, much to Burnley's frustration

Everton have posted losses of £371.8million over three years, much to Burnley’s frustration

Everton have posted losses of £371.8m over three years, placing a large share of that burden on the effects of the pandemic, including lost transfer and sponsorship revenue. Most clubs only claimed on lost gate receipts. The Premier League signed Everton’s numbers off but now Burnley are demanding all data and documents relating to this calculation are kept, pending an independent investigation.

Sheffield United lost several legal arguments before they found a judge who would support their claim, and it is possible Burnley may do the same. The Premier League say they are satisfied Everton breached no rules, but Burnley dispute this. Like Sheffield United, they were very happy to sign up to the league’s jurisdiction until something distasteful happened. Now, they want independent analysis.

The ramifications of the Super League include a lasting distrust, particularly between large and smaller-scale clubs. Burnley are one of only two Premier League sides that draw fewer than 20,000 on average each week, so may feel the system is against them.

After all, while results suggest Everton’s whole plan is concocted on the back of a fag packet, they are among the top division’s longest-serving clubs, already draw double Burnley’s gate and are soon to move to a new stadium. It is understandable that, in the current climate, there would be a degree of paranoia at Turf Moor about who the league would prefer to survive.

However, they should not frame clubs for their own failings - they have doomed themselves However, they should not frame clubs for their own failings - they have doomed themselves

However, they should not frame clubs for their own failings – they have doomed themselves

Yet, is it founded? Everton are, famously, the People’s Club. 

And those people tend to be based on Merseyside rather than spread in numbers across many continents. Everton’s relegation and return – particularly to a new stadium – would be one of those narratives that capture the imagination. And it’s still one club, one vote. There is no evidence to suggest Premier League mandarins punch the air when Burnley or Bournemouth go down. Brentford have given magnificent value this season.

And if Everton have broken the rules, yes, they should be punished. Nobody argues that. What should not happen, however, is to be framed for the failings of others. Burnley doomed Burnley. Nobody else.

 

Real’s sense of entitlement would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous

Real Madrid’s fanboys in the media and at the helm of Spanish football were suitably outraged at Kylian Mbappe’s snub, after he chose to stay with Paris Saint-Germain.

‘An ugly moment for football,’ stormed the sports newspaper AS. ‘An insult to football,’ said Javier Tebas, head of La Liga. Telling, isn’t it, the way Madridistas presume to take ownership of the sport, as if what is best for Real Madrid is also best for the game?

So let’s clear that up. It’s not an ugly moment for football, it’s ugly for Madrid to get blown out of the water by Parisian upstarts without a major European trophy to their name, bar the 1995-96 European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

And it isn’t an insult to football that the best players are spread between clubs, it’s an insult to Madrid that they can’t just pluck the greatest talent from a rival.

Maybe Madrid are now worried Mbappe might give another player ideas.

Real Madrid's sense of entitlement and anger over Kylian Mbappe is a threat to fair competition Real Madrid's sense of entitlement and anger over Kylian Mbappe is a threat to fair competition

Real Madrid’s sense of entitlement and anger over Kylian Mbappe is a threat to fair competition

Most laughable was the pious statement from La Liga, questioning PSG’s finances in affording such a deal. 

‘It is scandalous that a club which last season reported losses of more than €220m after accumulating losses of more than €700m in prior seasons (while reporting sponsorship income at a doubtful valuation), can face an agreement of these characteristics while those clubs that could accept the arrival of the player without seeing their wage bill compromised, are left unable to sign him,’ it read.

La Liga added that the Mbappe deal ‘threatens the economic sustainability of European football’.

Oh, behave. Real Madrid’s finances across recent years were propped up by some very dubious land deals, and their last contribution to the European game was to try to destroy it and divert its bounty to a handful of super clubs. 

Their sense of entitlement and fury at not getting their own way would be quite comical if it was not such a threat to fair competition.

 

Mercedes better – but not ‘back’

The message emanating from the Spanish Grand Prix was that Mercedes are back. Better maybe, but back? How? Yes, third and fifth-place finishes for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton showed promise, but Red Bull finished one and two. 

That leaves Max Verstappen 36 points ahead of any Mercedes driver in the standings, and Red Bull 75 points clear of Mercedes as constructors. 

It’s a lot of air between them and back. 

Mercedes are still a way off Red Bull despite claims after the Spanish GP that they were back Mercedes are still a way off Red Bull despite claims after the Spanish GP that they were back

Mercedes are still a way off Red Bull despite claims after the Spanish GP that they were back

 

Tories waved through Saudi Toon takeover and it stinks 

Nothing has passed through parliament yet, but the grandiose claims made for the Government’s football regulator are already falling apart.

Boris Johnson’s office is refusing to release details of correspondence relating to his intervention in the sale of Newcastle to Saudi Arabia. It could undermine our role in the Middle East, apparently.

So how does that sit with Tracey Crouch’s claim that the takeover would have been ‘stress-tested’ more by a regulator?

That’s just spin, isn’t it; or a lie, as it was known in old money. The Government wanted the Saudis in, so its regulator wouldn’t have stood in their way.

And it would be a Government regulator, not an independent regulator, because the slow-witted sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, gave that game away when he announced with certainty that the regulator would hand £1billion of the Premier League’s money to prop up the EFL.

Bungling Nigel Huddleston gave the game away over the Government's football regulator Bungling Nigel Huddleston gave the game away over the Government's football regulator

Bungling Nigel Huddleston gave the game away over the Government’s football regulator

If the regulator was actually independent, how could Huddleston know that? Yet Huddleston was adamant. So much for independence. The reality is, the Premier League resisted Saudi Arabia’s involvement far longer than a Government regulator would.

Meanwhile, the only person who knows less about the subject than Huddleston – his colleague Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary – was making her points on regulation to the DCMS committee last week.

‘There can be no more Macclesfields, no more Derbys and no more Chelseas,’ she said, as if the situations affecting those clubs were in any way related.

Macclesfield died because bad owners didn’t care, Derby are in crisis because the owner over-reached, while Chelsea’s owner became the collateral damage of the war in Ukraine. Yet in Dorries’ limited mind this is all solved by ‘a fit and proper person test for owners of clubs’.

And would that have identified Mel Morris, CBE for service to business and charity and the 268th richest man in the United Kingdom, as a rogue owner?

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries's limited mind believes issues can be solved by a 'fit and proper person test for owner of clubs', despite her examples not being related in any way Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries's limited mind believes issues can be solved by a 'fit and proper person test for owner of clubs', despite her examples not being related in any way

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’s limite…

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