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‘Football’s about teamsheets, not spreadsheets’: The Everton fans fighting back

‘Football’s about teamsheets, not spreadsheets’: The Everton fans fighting back

Everton supporters have written their own appeal to the Premier League after their 10-point deduction – i speaks to the chair about why they’re taking control of a tough situation

 

If you had the misfortune of watching Premier League CEO Richard Masters speak to a parliamentary subcommittee on Tuesday, you couldn’t miss the woman in a t-shirt adorned with a large Everton crest sat over his right shoulder.

That was Julie Clarke, secretary of Everton’s Fan Advisory Board (FAB). The FAB are an 11-strong panel, established in July 2022 to provide an official voice for supporters, communicating regularly with the club, media, other fans and official footballing bodies.

They are now launching an appeal against Everton’s 10-point penalty for breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations (PSR) for the period 2019-2022. The club have also been charged with a breach for the period 2020-2023.

In a 25-page witness statement sent to the Premier League and Everton, the FAB ask for consideration of “the true impact and consequences the sanctions will have on supporters and the wider community”.

The document, written under the guidance of a barrister, details the disproportionate impact the penalty has had on fans and could have on the future development of the local area.

“Loyalty and match support apart, there is one even more important aspect to being an Everton fan,” the statement reads. “They have, throughout their history, responded to a call to arms any time they see their club served an injustice, or even when they believe the club itself is not fulfilling its role as custodian with the probity and due respect they demand as the club’s biggest stakeholders.

“The sanction imposed on Everton ultimately has ramifications that go far beyond the team’s standing in the league table. Although framed as a “sporting sanction”, it will inevitably have direct and indirect financial consequences.

The impact of the new stadium being built on Bramley-Moore Dock is also raised as a defence. The development is expected to contribute £1.3bn to the local economy and create 15,000 jobs. It is also projected to attract 1.4m visitors to the city and is the sole Merseyside host venue for Euro 2028.

And past the social and economic benefits, the penalties are having a psychological impact on the fans.

FAB chair Dave Kelly, who has missed just two Everton games in 23 years (both due to a broken back), told i: “I’m very quickly falling out of love with the beautiful game this season. I’m actually finding it difficult to motivate myself to go to games. The game has evolved so much over the last couple of years and not for the better.

“The best thing Everton could sign this January would be a top-notch barrister, or top-notch accountant. Football shouldn’t be about spreadsheets, it should be about teamsheets.

“The problem with the enforcement of PSR is they’re not open and they’re not transparent. Nobody understands them. We don’t know the rules of engagement because they don’t exist. That’s going to end up disenfranchising so many people. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Kelly also pointed out that of the Everton board which oversaw the period of the breach, only Farhad Moshiri is still at the club – and he’s put it up for sale: “This isn’t an Everton FC issue. This is a football fans’ issue, irrelevant of what club it is. It just needs to be open, it needs to be transparent, it needs to be fair. People need to say justice has been done. The people who’re responsible for getting us into that mess aren’t even here. A sporting sanction hurts the fans, nobody else.”

“People need to realise the impact that Everton has – the new stadium is the catalyst for the whole regeneration of the north end of the city, one of the most impoverished, socially and economically declined areas in the country. It’s created thousands of jobs.

“This city is facing a humanitarian crisis. There’s people on our streets, there’s people going hungry and they don’t know where there next meal is coming from. The decisions that have been made seriously brings into question whether Everton can build that stadium and continue the good work that’s being done. That’s not sustainability, that’s short-sightedness.”

Everton fans will not back down, either in their appeal against the current penalty or rallying against future deductions. The FAB are here to stay to ensure Everton are too.

“The fans are rightly concerned that this brings about the sort of uncertainty which may jeopardise the viability of our historic club, and with it its many and varied community projects, as well as the stadium.

“From the fans’ perspective there are more proportionate ways that any breach of the PSR can be marked which do not involve such an unfair and long-term impact on the club, the fans, and the wider community.”

The club’s community projects come up throughout the document, most notably the Everton in the Community charity. Established in 1988, it now secures £2m of funding annually and is described as “one of the UK’s top sporting charities and firmly established on the world stage of community development”. It employs 120-plus full-time staff and “offers more than 50 programmes covering a range of social issues including health, employability, anti-social behaviour, crime, education, dementia, poverty, youth engagement, youth justice and disability.”

It even opened a free school in Merseyside which educates around 200 teenagers at any one time from 14-19. The FAB argue that the penalty and financial loss and potential relegation that comes with it could affect the club’s ability to provide these charitable services.

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