02/12/2023 31comments  |  Jump to last

Following his detailed critique of certain aspects of the Premier League's independent commission findings that resulted in the draconian 10-point deduction levied on Everton for a single breach of P&S Rules, Andy Burnham has composed a second letter addressing aspects of Alison Brittain's reply that are 'highly problematic'.

Here is the full text of Andy Burnham's response to Alison Brittain's reply as Cahiir of the Premier League:

Alison Brittain
Chair
The Premier League
2 December 2023

Dear Alison

Article continues below video content


EVERTON FOOTBALL CLUB: DEDUCTION OF POINTS

I appreciate your detailed reply to my letter of 26 November and your clarification of a number of important points. In particular, I noted two clear statements:

"You are correct to say that (unlike the Premier League), the English Football League (EFL) does have sanctioning guidelines in place."

"In 2020, the Premier League Executive asked its clubs whether similar guidelines (as those in the Football League (EFL)) should be adopted and the clear consensus was that they should not be."

I can assure you it was not my intention to seek to engage you in protracted correspondence on this matter. I had hoped you would be able to provide me with enough reassurance to leave things there. However, If anything, having read your letter carefully, I am now more concerned about the Premier League's handling of Everton's case.

Let me explain why.

There is a particular sentence which, when read alongside the other statements I have referenced above, is highly problematic. It is this one:

"The league's submission contained a formula (as a means to explain how it reached its view on the appropriate sanction), however it is not a 'policy' as you describe, or a framework."

This raises serious issues.

Firstly, you say 'policy' was my description. In fact, this is how the Independent Commission chose to refer to what was presented to It in Mr Masters's witness statement (presumably because this was how Mr Masters described it in his statement). Paragraph 86 is the relevant part of their Decision:

"On 10 August 2023 the Premier League board adopted a sanction policy that it considered to be appropriate to breaches of the PSR. The policy was detailed in section 7 of Mr Masters's witness statement."

The paragraph goes on to say that the PL subsequently sought to clarify a misunderstanding about the status of the position it had adopted on 10 August. The PL told the Commission it was "advancing its view in the same way as the EFL policy was advanced by those representing it before a Commission hearing an EFL P&S complaint".

In your letter to me, you claimed that the PL's position was different from that of the EFL However, in Its evidence to the Commission, the Pl said its approach was, in effect, the same as the EFL policy. I hope you can see the glaring inconsistency here.

Let me go on to the next issue.

Your letter attempts to draw a distinction between a 'formula' and a 'policy'. Most people would struggle to see the difference between these things. It is only possible to see a difference if the formula was to be used in one case only. This begs two questions: 

1. Is it your intention to use this 'formula' only In Everton's case? If so, how does that inspire confidence that the Premier League is acting fairly and consistently in respect of all clubs?

2. Or, is it your intention to use the same 'formula' in other cases? If so, surely that breaches the decision taken by the clubs in 2020?

It is clear to me, from the Commission's Decision, that It too saw an issue in what appeared to be the PL attempting to introduce a sanctioning policy "through the back door". In paragraph 89, it states: "Nevertheless, the Commission is concerned that the adoption by it of a structured formula such as is advocated by the Premier League would be inconsistent with the unrestricted powers conferred by Rules W.5O & 51. We consider that it is not for a Commission to introduce such a structured formula even on a case by case basis."

My reading of this part of the Commission's Decision is that, if it had accepted what the Premier League was saying, the Commission would have compromised the basis on which it was based. That could have amounted to accusations of an abuse of process. It goes on to state in paragraph 90: "We therefore decline to adopt the structured formula proposed by the Premier League."

You state on two occasions that it is normal practice in sporting arbitration cases for both sides to be asked to give a view on sanctions. My understanding is that this is meant to be a general view about the nature of the sanction – ie, financial or sporting – and not a detailed formula which, in effect, ties
the hands of the body concerned.

In Everton's case, the problem we are left with is this: the Independent Commission went on to adopt a very similar sanction as the one that would have been required under the PL's formula without providing full reasoning for concluding that level of sanction to be appropriate. If nothing else, this risks a perception of undue influence exerted by the PL on the Commission.

For the reasons I have given above, I do not believe your letter in any way clears up concerns about abuse of process. I also believe that this matter now concerns more than Everton. All Premier League clubs, and their supporters, have a right know the detail of what was adopted on 10 August by the PL and how it was presented in Mr Masters's submission, particularly Section 7.

So, in the interests of transparency and fairness, I am asking two final questions:

• Will you publish the minutes of the Premier League Board of 10 August?
• Will you publish the full version of Mr Masters's witness statement, including Section 7?

I am again copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Shadow Secretary of State given the growing relevance of Everton's case to the Football Governance Bill.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

ANDY BURNHAM

cc     Rt Hon Lucy Frazer MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
        Thangam Debbonaire MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

 

Reader Comments (31)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:10:29
I think he's done a brilliant job here, drilling down into the exact nature of the breach by the Premier League of its own rules and protocols, and most importantly flying in the face of the expressed wishes of the majority of member clubs.

This is key to the whole fiasco because it zooms right in on the sentencing itself – the most contentious and problematic aspect of the whole sad and sordid business – with a consensus of the Premier League clubs themselves set against the adoption of sentencing guidelines similar to those in the EFL.

Yet that is exactly what the Premier League has tried to do here "through the back door" indeed!

Off with their heads!!!

Anthony Hawkins
2 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:12:43
Again, these are the very challenges and insights I would have expected Everton representatives to have raised themselves at the hearing or even at the outcome.

I don't understand why they haven't, didn't or wouldn't.

John Keating
3 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:17:49
Well done, Andy.

This letter has articulated what some had posted – in a round about way! The issue and decision gets even more murkier and incomprehensible.

The problem is twofold: Will the Premier League flunkeys on the appeals commission put their egos and bias to one side?
Secondly, will the Everton team articulate and bring up points many, including Andy, have raised?

Somehow I doubt it… on both points.

Michael Kenrick
4 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:22:42
I imagine they were dumbstruck, Anthony – if they were informed of the penalty at the end of the hearing.

My suspicion is they only found out about the draconian penalty pretty much when we all did – when the Premier League published the results of the independent commission on their website.

Actually, they both sides had a chance to review the findings before they were published, so that's not true. But I'm sure the first Everton would have known of it is well after the end of the hearings.

Let's just hope against hope they are smart enough to make this a central plank of the appeal.

David Cooper
5 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:37:05
What an absolutely magnificent second letter to Ms Brittan. So clear and concise that, even if we are not paralegals, we can see that he has asked questions whose answers are above Ms Brittan's pay grade. We need to hear from the organ grinder – not his monkey!

I only hope that whoever is representing us at this second inquisition is adept and knowledgeable as Andy. In fact, we would all love to see him speaking on our behalf.

I fear that, with the independent panel being questioned in such detail, they will take their time and let us swing in the wind for as long as possible. Are they hoping that next set of accounts to be presented before 31 December will also see us condemned?

Even though we have been under Premier League scrutiny since 2020(?) and have raised enough from the sales of Digne, Richarlison, Gordon et al to cover the purchases by Big Sam, Little Frank and Mr Dyche.

Given that Moshiri and our late, Chairman – who is quoted as saying to Simon Jordan “You try telling a billionaire how to spend his money” – held the purse strings, any creative accounting is possible.

Sadly I think we will be playing under this very dark cloud for most of this season where every loss will be magnified as we try to fight our way out of the Bottom 3.

Each week, I look at the drone videos of our new wonderful stadium as it grows on the Blue Mersey hoping that we will be still in the Premier League when we can play there.

COYB v Forest today!

James Hughes
6 Posted 02/12/2023 at 15:42:12
MK, I read that Everton were only informed 1 hour before the 'judgement' was released to the media.

I am hoping, fingers crossed, that EFC were playing it down and now that the process has been published, will go all out on the legal front. No point in putting all your cards on display if you are unsure of the game being played. Or even if they have switched to dominoes

COYB

Michael Kenrick
7 Posted 02/12/2023 at 16:58:16
Yes, James, that makes more sense.

To reiterate the response to Anthony @2, they could perhaps have attacked Masters's submission in this regard but they had probably worked up their defence in full before hearing the Premier League submission(s).

I don't think Everton could have raised this issue at the hearing but it seems to be a meaty one for the appeal.

David McMullen
8 Posted 02/12/2023 at 17:11:58
The letter is great from Burnham, he's demonstrating the lack of credibility in the Premier League and how they operate and also lack of transparancy and integrity in the whole process. Surely as a 'witness' or what ever phrase is used for Richard Masters, that his contribution is now unreliable?

I wonder what Andy Burnham fancies doing next after his stint as a Metro Mayor?

Kieran Kinsella
9 Posted 02/12/2023 at 17:25:11
Someone high profile and intelligent making the EPL seem like idiots. I thought the reply to his first email was snarky and had a feel of "how dare you question us" us about it. When you think about the EPL you have so much power and money in the hands of so few. I mean not just the livelihoods of managers and players but staff at all these clubs, ancillary businesses including those in the local communities. They can have a massive effect on the local economy of any Premier league hosting town or city. So to offer vague contradictory and inconsistent responses is utterly outrageous.
Jack Convery
10 Posted 02/12/2023 at 18:56:48
The only thing he didn't say was – "So go and shove your 10pt deduction where the sun don't shine".

If he never becomes Labour leader it will be a crying shame. Though as a Chairman he would suit me just fine.

Mike Hayes
11 Posted 02/12/2023 at 20:54:37
Great response to the idiots in charge and fingers crossed we get through this and remain in the premiership - a great 3 points today to achieve that! Keiran - the EFL have proven time and again they are idiots and couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery 🤷💙
Christine Foster
12 Posted 02/12/2023 at 23:28:58
Keiran,

I thought the response was, as you say, snarky... like it was an affront (should have been started with an opening sentence beginning with "How dare you..."). It reminded me of the stance often taken by our late chairman when playing with his train set.

Andy Burnham's response articulated certainly my thoughts far better than I could ever do and got right to the heart of probably the strongest basis for an appeal.

That's not to say things like Player X should be accepted, but we need to show we mean business. Gloves off, no more working with the Premier League because, I tell you, if we win the appeal, those bastards will certainly try again with the next set of accounts if they can. They need humiliating.

Chad Schofield
13 Posted 03/12/2023 at 09:15:15
Anthony Hawkins #2, sure they would have. The report states both sides tried to make changes upon reading.

My thoughts are that for all of the posturing of Masters and the Premier League, they had hoped that the independent commission would temper this right down, and they could then show how they had a wonderfully balanced mechanism to govern themselves.

It makes absolutely no sense to have issued this level of punishment in the way they have. But then responding to an Andy Burnham's open letter privately, and not expecting an open response?!!

Andy has done a brilliant job in his letters. He can now break down their arguments publicly.

I'd imagine they'll now refuse to discuss the matter with him, citing how by doing this in public could affect the impartiality (ha!) of Everton's appeal.

This way, even if they now refuse to reply, he's made them look stupid. At least he's opened up the opportunity for them to further soil themselves in public.

Pete Neilson
14 Posted 03/12/2023 at 09:23:45
This is the same Alison Brittain who only last year tried to pocket a £1.5 bonus at Whitbread. They’d taken £250 million in government Covid payments, made a £1 billion loss and made two thousand redundant. Only a shareholder revolt stopped it and the company joined the Investment Association’s list of shame over fat cat pay. Funny that it’s wasn’t mentioned in her glowing welcome by the EPL only three months later when she jumped ship. For fat cats financial probity is only for others.
Steve Brown
15 Posted 03/12/2023 at 09:38:17
Kieran/Christine, , Andy Burnham is former Health Secretary, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports and a Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

These greedy, arrogant twerps at the Premier League need to wake up fast to the fact that they are under scrutiny by serious figures now and learn humility quick.

It would serve them better to admit they made a mistake in the severity of the penalty rather than attempt to double-down. Both main parties intend to legislate for an independent regulator for football, and there is a good chance that the party that Andy represents will be in power next year.

The leadership of the Premier League might want to consider that before deciding their next step.

Danny O’Neill
16 Posted 03/12/2023 at 10:02:57
Well, it seems that he is not giving this up.

They've made this up as they've gone along.

Well, now there is Government level interest from a very well respected politician with experience in culture, media and sport as well as being a close runner for being leader of the Labour Party had it not been for that Momentum organisation.

He carries influence and weight. Keep going, Mr Burnham. Those people in their grey suits can't hide forever in their Paddington offices.

And just keep winning, Everton. They can't stop or deny that.

Matt Traynor
17 Posted 03/12/2023 at 12:36:00
Pete #14, she seems well suited to the Premier League role then. This is the same organisation that requested its membership contribute £250k each towards Richard Scudamore's £5m retirement gift - a man who had previously been supremely remunerated at the trough.

The same organisation that wanted a 39th game played overseas at the end of the season, with locations / fixtures TBC, and still have that count towards final league placement, and not see the sporting integrity problem.

If ever there was a case for regulation, this is it - unfortunately UK doesn't have the best track record in this regard.

Jerome Shields
18 Posted 03/12/2023 at 13:05:24
Well done Andy you have factually widened the content of the debate and stopped the Premier League from taking faceless decisions. without accountability.

They are now in the position of trying to defend the undefendable. All this revelation will become part of the review even with the questionable ability of those that are representing Everton.

I always thought there was a connection between the EPL and EFL regarding dealing with Everton.You wwould think that Everton are being dealt with as if they are relegated..

Stu Darlington
19 Posted 03/12/2023 at 14:42:21
Andy Burnham's letter certainly goes to the heart of the matter. All the anomalies and contradictions are laid out for anyone to see.

Unfortunately, there is no supreme independent body where this can be raised. The composition of the next Commission is entirely in the hands of the people who passed down the original sentence, ie, the Premier League and they can choose to ignore all the points raised if they wish.

Whether they choose to ignore or excuse all or some of the points in the letter is entirely in their hands, they are the absolute dictators in all this.

Pressure from powerful outside persons or organisations can help sway their ultimate decision but I suspect the end result will be some sort of face-saving compromise not the least influence being the dawning realisation that a precedent set for the Man City, Chelsea cases, ie, relegation to League 2, may cause them both to quit the Premier League and strengthen the threat of the formation of a European Super League.

Should this happen, major funds would be diverted away from the Premier League and bring an end to the gravy train, which they definitely would not want! And money always talks!

Danny Baily
20 Posted 03/12/2023 at 21:28:04
Presumably anyone could request the minutes and witness statement be published and they would be obliged to do so (even if redacted)?
Ben King
21 Posted 03/12/2023 at 22:44:07
If the appeal is dealt with in the same cack handed way as the original indpt commission then we should take the case to court like Spurs did under Alan Sugar.

We can’t let this ridiculousness continue

Derek Thomas
22 Posted 03/12/2023 at 23:44:57
Christine @ 12; "because, I tell you, if we win the appeal, those bastards will certainly try again with the next set of accounts if they can. They need humiliating."

This is my fear - having tried it with the 'rolling accounts' for years A, B & C, they will...as it shows 'a history of repeat offending' try it again with the 'rolling accounts' for years B, C & D.

And, in 'I wouldn't put anything past those bastards' category...If they do amend our punishment, they won't reduce it by say 5.
They will show that they were within their rights and punishment still stands but try to play the good guy by tempering justice with mercy and suspend 5

Then if required, tack it on to next years punishment.

Jerome Shields
23 Posted 03/12/2023 at 23:52:52
Stu#19

That is the problem that the Premier League has now created with their Everton decision with:

The European Super League mothballed, but not forgotten.

The Saudi League, with it's bottomless pit of money, which could be extended.

The other problem is that Man City and Chelsea lawyers will be looking with interest at the present details and queries regarding the Everton case, which appears to be full of holes

Mark Taylor
24 Posted 04/12/2023 at 01:16:13
While it might be useful to have the minutes and the witness statement published, the letter still appears to be pushing in the wrong direction.

The EPL may have been clumsy in their phrasing- we'll see- but they are entitled to submit evidence, including a proposed punishment, in the absence of an agreed and published tariff.

It is a matter of record that the commission disregarded the EPL's proposed tariff and issued its own as they were entitled to do. The real issue here is on what basis they did so. If they are to ignore the EPL, and rightly so, they must de facto have their own (better) rationale. But that wasn't evident in the otherwise pretty forensic published findings.

Maybe Burnham is trying to get to this in a roundabout way. Personally I'd have preferred him to focus on why a points deduction is a remedy for something called Profit and Sustainability which by title and intent, appears to be trying to prevent clubs from getting into financial difficulties (and on the way, pulling up the drawbridge). Wage limits or transfer embargos might have made a bit more sense.

As others have said, we'd better hope we have our ducks in a row for 22/3. I suspect that will be tight, as we continued to buy players, but we have also lost a fair bit of wages and sold players too. And we will be losing a particularly large loss making year, albeit along with some of the Covid mitigations.

Matt Traynor
25 Posted 04/12/2023 at 01:36:07
Just searching online about this.

Most mainstream media carry the original letter, some carry the EPL response (some with "EPL hit back" strapline). Only 2 carry his follow up. This esteemed organ, and The Echo, which we'd expect.

Good job I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Back to watching the fake moon landing documentary.

Michael Kenrick
26 Posted 04/12/2023 at 07:20:17
Matt, good sleuthing.

Did you see the full response letter from the Premier League? From what I saw, Andy Burnham snipped only one paragraph.

It would be interesting to see what the whole thing said.

Philip Bunting
27 Posted 04/12/2023 at 07:41:08
This whole 10 points deduction is so bizarre when you look at the Premier league nett spend on transfers over the last 5 years. We are 18 in that table. So strange how this is calculated
Danny O’Neill
28 Posted 04/12/2023 at 07:55:25
Danny B @20. Minutes / Records of Discussion?

Very tongue in cheek but I can almost hear them.

Meeting opens…

Commissioner A: "The Premier League said deduct 12 points. What do you think?"

Commissioner B: "Sounds a bit harsh for one offence and the cost of a half decent player."

Commissioner C: "I agree, just deduct 10. They're plucky Everton and will take their medicine.

All Commissioners: "That sounds a good idea. 10 points. Meeting adjourned. Now, shall we pop out for a spot of lunch and cocktails? There are some great places near the canal."

Tongue out of cheek. The more I look at this, the more it appears to have been a near foregone conclusion that changed its course at the 11th hour. We can fight it despite attempts to mute our voices. We shall not be moved… spirit is required.

Regardless of opinions on the individual – and he has a controversial history in the game – but having read the comments from Keith Wyness and, although from an Everton perspective, he wasn't relating directly to our case, he mentioned that during his time, Everton had one lawyer and compared that to Manchester City allegedly having 30 on their case with the Premier League. Apples and oranges, I suppose?

Sorry to revert to military metaphors. Admittedly, they have a lot more cases to answer to, but that is a "platoon" of lawyers.

I hope Everton have a few more lined up rather than leave it to a young Lieutenant in the Napoleonic Wars given the "privilege" of leading the Forlorn Hope charge to make the breach but facing certain death (Google it if you don't know about it).

For those who watched Blackadder Goes Forth, the episode when George acts as defence for Blackadder springs to mind!!!

Dramatic for a Monday morning and in my own way, trying to be lighthearted.

As much as they have made an example of us here, Everton can make an example back. As long as they start fighting back. We've tried being compliant and worked with them. It didn't work. They shafted us Just get it right, resource it, make our case and fight it.

And get it right on the pitch, which we mostly have been doing. That will be more than two fingers in the face of adversity. Regardless of any successful appeal, we can turn this around.

Totally random, but I've just seen on the BBC that they collapsed the Fiddler's Ferry towers. I didn't realise it was opened in 1971, the year I was born. I hope that isn't an omen.

Apologies. Hopefully a bit of light entertainment. I'll get back to football and Everton.

Remember where this club comes from. Let's try and forget (difficult) the deliberate detaching from the most passionate support in the country by the then board. They are gone now.

Now is the time to fuel off that passion as a unified club and stand up for who we are. They may not know it as they've probably only been following football since 1993. Following in the loosest sense. That's aimed at the authorities and Sky bandwagon jumpers, not genuine football supports who were born after that period. We are not plucky Everton. Stand up and be counted.

Good Morning by the way.

Bob Parrington
29 Posted 05/12/2023 at 01:09:42
Superb response by Andy.

I hope our legal team are reading it???

Kim Vivian
30 Posted 12/12/2023 at 17:18:37
I contacted my local MP Damien Collins and have now received his somewhat neutral (for reasons I understand) reply.

My initial email (27 November):

Dear Mr Collins,

I realise this is not a Folkestone and Hythe constituency matter but I write to you as a constituent myself and primarily a football supporter.

Contacting the Premier League (EPL) itself as a humble member of the public brings no satisfactory response – simply a curt but polite standardised response which fails to answer any questions or offer any explanations whatsoever.

I understand the commercial objectives of businesses – and top flight football has become more of a business than a sport in modern times – but as a mature football supporter I am deeply concerned as to how the behaviour and performance of the EPL seems to be eroding the enjoyment of the game for thousands of like minded fans of the game, simply it appears for financial benefit of a few.

I am interested to know your opinion on the broadly accepted injustice of the extent of the penalty imposed on Everton Football Club by a so-called independent commission who actually seemed to be writing the rules in discrete collaboration with the EPL.

The sanctions will have a resounding impact not only on the club itself by threatening the very existence of a famous sporting institution, but also the local population and businesses across Liverpool city. The penalty even exceeds that imposed for going into financial administration which defies all logic. Whilst I agree that the club has transgressed the accepted rules, it was not, on the face of it, a deliberate attempt to cheat the rules but the result of quite appalling business management at the highest level.

The sanctions imposed, and indeed threatened, are going to affect the "man on the street" infinitely more than the transgressors themselves – one of whom of course is now deceased.

There is a groundswell of support for Everton Football Club and I ask will you be joining the many senior figures who are now publicly questioning the decisions and seeking explanations as to why they have imposed this penalty?

I understand that you are a strong advocate for a new independent regulator of football and are concerned about the future of football as we know it. Parliament are themselves considering establishing an independant commission to oversee the governance of the game and it looks as though the EPL, in attempting to demonstrate that it does not need or welcome outside influence, has managed to shoot itself resoundingly in the foot this time.

I could expound my thoughts further but I think I have made my point so will sign off just by saying I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments you might care to come back with.

Yours faithfully

Kim V Vivian

His reply...

Dear Mr Vivian,

Thank you for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding. I understand that Everton have appealed the decision, and we must await the outcome of that appeal.

One reason I support an independent regulator for football is to ensure transparency in the way that rules are imposed, and to ensure consistency in this.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write.

Kind regards,

Damian Collins OBE MP

Reading between his lines, it seems he thinks there is not much transparency right now.

Andy Finigan
31 Posted 12/12/2023 at 22:06:12
Excellent letter, Kim, and thank you for asking the questions.

I have also wrote to the Secretary of State for Sport concerning my views and think the more letters we send the better.


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