FFP CONTROVERSY: SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY’S PUNISHMENT DIDN'T FIT THE CRIME
I wrote recently about the harsh times ahead for the English Football League (EFL) and its need for strong leadership. But their limp response to events in the past are still coming back to haunt them.
At the end of last season Sheffield Wednesday were awarded a 12-point deduction for breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules by misleading the EFL on their income.
This is not up for debate, they certainly did and independent bodies have confirmed this is the case. They logged a dodgy stadium sale at inflated levels to help them comply with FFP in the 2017/18 season so their income matched their expenditure.
This is cheating, regardless of how you feel about FFP.
The EFL didn't conclude its case until the 2019/20 season, well kind of. The play-offs were still being played and so league positions weren’t set.
However, the EFL decided to award the 12-point penalty in this current season anyway. This seemed to be done to avoid any more controversy, as they had just relegated Wigan with the same penalty, however by doing so the EFL has undermined its own authority and the league as a whole.
Only last Thursday was that 12-point deduction reduced to six.
Now I must state that I don't necessarily disagree with the way that the six points were retroactively reinstated, as it turns out that the 12 points were awarded in two parts.
Six for the offence and six for non-compliance with the investigations but Wednesday compiled and therefore don’t deserve the extra six points.
However, that means that the offence of deliberately misleading the EFL to achieve FFP was only six points which is quite shocking.
FFP is there to stop the overspending and high inflation that occurs in the Championship as teams vie for the money of the Premier League.
While this may not be the best system, we can see that it is needed to stop even more teams going bust as their costs outweigh their income. With the covid-19 pandemic we can see that most teams are on a knife-edge and are finding it difficult without stadium attendances.
If a team deliberately misleads the EFL on its income, as Sheffield Wednesday did, then they have undermined the league’s rules and gained an advantage over those who complied.
A points deduction has to do two things:
- It has to punish the offender and therefore make an incentive for others not to break the rules.
- The punishment dished out should try and take back any advantage the team had from breaking the rules.
12 points this season, arguably doesn’t do that and six points certainly doesn’t.
In the Championship there is little difference in placing 7th or 21st in regards to monetary awards. The meagre points deduction, only in a handful of cases actively has any effect on Sheffield Wednesday and that’s if it stops them getting into a promotion spot, the playoffs or if it relegates them.
Otherwise the points deduction doesn’t truly do anything and doesn’t give an incentive for other teams not to follow their lead.
Sheffield Wednesday, through deceit, were able to spend more money on players and it is hard to put a points value on a single player but often a single player could get you more than six points.
Therefore, the ability to buy a few more and spend more on wages will mean that Sheffield Wednesday would have gained more points for breaking the rules than they have lost for the punishment. Especially if you take into account, they have had these players a couple of seasons before the punishment.
This lack of real punishment undermines the EFL’s own authority and sets a bad precedent going forward as it actively encourages clubs to cheat if they believe they can get more than six points out of it.
All opinions in this piece are that of Robert Gammon and not One2Football.