Do Charlton have a case? Will the EFL appeal? What about Derby? Your questions answered on the Sheffield Wednesday points deduction latest
Charlton Athletic say that ‘at least’ eight Championship clubs have indicated they would support the Addicks in legal action designed to relegate Sheffield Wednesday after an independent commission ruled that they would start next season on minus 12 points.
The ruling was brought about after the Owls were found guilty of misconduct based on the fact that the Club should not have included profits from the sale of Hillsborough Stadium in the Club’s financial statements for the period ending July 2018.
Charlton, relegated in 21st place, would have effectively stayed up if the 12-point sanction had been enacted on the 2019/20 season table.
Yesterday Wigan Athletic’s relegation to League One was confirmed after their appeal against a 12-point deduction for breaching insolvency rules was overturned. Derby County await a verdict for their EFL charge of exceeding "excess losses".
We asked Front Row Legal’s Richard Cramer, one of the country’s foremost sports lawyers, to answer some of your vital questions as the Wednesday legal saga drags on.
Charlton are considering legal action – do they have a case?
“I can understand their grievance but it's probably and realistically too late in the day to do anything about it. The timing with all of this is now completely out of sync.
“There's one way to look at it; were it not for coronavirus, would this process have been completed by March or April time? If that was the case then realistically they could have imposed a points deduction for this season.
“But everything has been delayed. It's been a quite extraordinary season in more ways than one because of the delays in just getting the season finished.
“Charlton quite rightly feel very aggrieved and will say that Sheffield Wednesday were very lucky to have escaped relegation this year, but that's just the way the timetable has panned out and it will be very easy for the football league to justify the timings of all of this. Coronavirus has impacted hugely on all our lives and clearly has had a massive impact on the playing season and the regulatory hearing.
“If there was to be any criticism, which Charlton could raise, it would be as to why it has taken so long for the regulatory hearing to have taken place in the first place and ultimately if the disciplinary procedures could have started earlier with a tighter timetable then this decision could have come out pre-coronavirus.
“But we can all be clever with the benefit of hindsight and the fact is that nobody knew what was going to happen.
“It probably makes sense to impose the deduction for next year. It's not great and as you'd imagine the fans of Charlton are saying this just isn't fair. But it is going to be very difficult for any club to successfully launch a challenge.”
Once the written reasons are issued, Wednesday have 14 days to appeal. How long would that take?
“Football authorities might learn from this and what we can't do anymore is allow matters to linger on as they have done. I think in fairness to the rest of the Championship it's probably better that any appeal is dealt with prior to the start of the season because it does create confusion and impacts on planning.
“If there is going to be an appeal it will be dealt with in what's known as an 'expedited manner' and what we have seen is that where there's a will there's a way. Wigan have moved very quickly with their tribunal in order to get a quick decision for their deduction for breaching insolvency regulations.
“I think what we'll see now is matters dealt with a little more speedily and so my expectation is that if there's going to be an appeal I would hope it would be concluded by the start of the season.”
What are the chances of the EFL appealing?
“The EFL will probably be happy with the verdict, I suspect it will be Wednesday that will be the ones who may want to launch an appeal. There was a finding in relation to non-cooperation, which is a feather in the cap but nevertheless 12 points is a fairly brutal penalty.
“It's difficult to say what will happen without the evidence as Wednesday may take the approach that 12 points is the maximum penalty and aside from the cost issue they may say it's worth a shot at an appeal, but that would cause further disruption.
“It might well be that they decide to come to terms with the decision that's been made and adjust playing personnel and so on around minus 12.
“What I think is clear is that this decision is designed to send a very clear warning shot that Financial Fair Play rules are strict and need to be adhered to and can't be manipulated or circumvented.”
What about Derby?
“I don't know who has set on each panels but would imagine they are separate panels and separate individuals. It would make a mockery of the rules and the decision that Wednesday have received if suddenly Derby only got a rap across the knuckles for a similar offence.
“Each case is on its own merits but if the Derby case is very similar to the Wednesday case then it could prove that Derby are also faced with a similar deduction. That said, each case has its own nuances and idiosyncrasies which mean you can't say 'one size fits all'. That said, it's a similar sort of prosecution based on trying to manipulate FFP rules.
“If I was a betting man now, I would expect Derby to receive a similar 12-point deduction.”