You can support your club for pretty much any reason. Mine is because we had a black and white telly. It was 1975 and replica kits were not really a thing, so I ran onto the school pitch wearing my ‘England kit’ of white top black shorts and white socks and claimed the role of Kevin Keegan. The richer (make that slightly less poor) kids with colour tellies told me that I couldn’t be Keegan, England played in blue shorts, I was wearing a Derby kit. And that was that. The point is that bar an accident of birth, geography, or monochrome viewing, you could support any club and what I am about to describe could happen to you.
In 2014 I watched an exciting team, with a wage bill of £14.5m lose to QPR in the playoff final. They had a wage bill of £75million.
Next year it was Hull in the play-offs, with their parachute payments from the previous year, wage bill 30m.
Then a year off before having another go, losing to Fulham in 2018, wage bill £54m.
And then 2019 a loss to Villa, wage bill £65m.
So, 2 playoff semis, two finals, four loses, twice to teams that didn’t just break FFP but stamped on it, took it outside shot it from a cannon and then reversed over it with a steam roller.
Good luck to them, they bent the rules, rolled the dice, they won, that’s the way football works. I only mention it is for context.
During this period, Derby embarked on a period of open-hearted altruism that would make Bill and Melinda Gates look like candidates for a visit from the ghost of Christmas past. Having recognised the championship was an unlevel playing field they attempted to even things up by helping the needy. Finding a Huddersfield outside Tesco’s with a lurcher on a string they dropped £4m in their hat for a crap midfielder. Reading popped round asking if they could clear the leaves from our drive and would we like a below average centre forward. We sent them on their way with £5m. And on it went, distributing tens of millions to the needy of the parish for things they had lurking in the attic.
So, having paid a lot of money for some very shit players, it was a case of working out how to comply with FFP.
Derby asked the EFL if they could sell their stadium. The EFL said yes, so it was valued by an independent stadium valuer and sold to the chairman. Dodgy? Damn right. Breaking the rules? Apparently not according to the EFL who sanctioned it.
They also changed the way they depreciated the value of players (amortisation). Previously if a player was bought for £10m over 4 years £2.5m was written off each year so at the end of their contract the value was zero. Derby changed to a system that still logged the final figure at zero, but wrote-down year by year values depending on the player and their perceived re-sale value. Derby asked the EFL if that was ok, they said yes. They then submitted 3 separate years of accounts using this method, the EFL signed off on all 3 years.
In January 2020 the EFL, under the new guidance of Rick ‘Vicky Pollard’ Parry adopted a new policy, best described as: Yeah, but no, but yeah, but no.
They started with two charges, the first relating to the sale of Pride Park and the second regarding the amortisation of players' contracts. Both or which they had previously agreed. In writing.
At the time, the club was up for sale and understandably suitors were put off by the threat hanging over the club, so it was in everyone’s interest to act quickly. Well, yeah, but no, so we waited for 7 months. Now, we’ve have all had trouble getting zoom working before so let’s cut them a bit of slack. To add to the fun, they put us under a transfer embargo in early Jan 2020. We are still under it.
Both charges were dismissed on 24th August 2021. The EFL statement said this:
An independent Disciplinary Commission has dismissed the charge brought against the Club in respect of the valuation associated with the sale of Pride Park in 2018.
A second charge relating to the Club’s policy regarding the amortisation of intangible assets was found proven only in respect of the Club’s failure to properly disclose a change in policy in 2015. The Commission found that the Club’s approach to amortisation did not break financial reporting standard FRS 102.
The Disciplinary commission consisted of 2 eminent lawyers and an accountant. Both sides had 14 days to appeal.
Bet you can’t guess how long the EFL took to appeal?
Sure enough, 14 days later the appeal is lodged.
So, with the EFL appealing against the independent panel set up by the EFL, you would imagine that would speed through, even with Barry in IT on the case.
8 months later, 11th May 2021 the appeal results were heard.
Derby were cleared of breaching FFP (over the stadium sale) but lost the element of the case concerning how the club measured the value of players - amortisation.
So back to another independent panel to set the punishment.
That panel said Derby should pay a fine of £100,00 which you might say made the EFL look a bit silly. All that time and effort for 2 weeks pay for Bobby Zamorra.
Instead of the usual next steps, waiting for the Disciplinary Commission to publish its full written reasons for the decision and agreeing a statement with the club, they put out a statement at 11pm on the 23rd of June.
Nothing quite says calm decisive organisation like putting your press releases out just before mid-night.
At that point the facts spoke for themselves and the story should have been: Derby fined £100,000. But some might ask themselves why the EFL had spent so much time, effort (and money supplied by its members) to effectively fail. So they spun it.
They issued a bonkers two tier fixture list and said that Derby may face points deduction from an appeal. Ten days later, the Disciplinary Committee (DC) notes were released, 52 detailed pages that having pored over, the EFL lawyers concluded gave them no case for imposing a points deduction in the season just finished.
The headlines all said:
"Derby escape relegation". rather than.
"Derby fined £100,000."
Put that into context. Say you are caught speeding, the maximum you can get is 3 points and £100. But the local paper claims you might get 5 years in custody. The headlines then say Local man escapes prison. Don't think the neighbours are going to invite you round to many bbqs for a while.
Now let's say that car you were speeding in was bought on finance over 3 years, then 3 years later the regulator told you that they’d made a mistake, got the repayment figures wrong and that they were taking you to court and blaming you for their mistake, you might be unhappy. If all your neighbours wandered around saying you had systematically cheated for those 3 years you might feel a bit worse.
The EFL then asked Derby to resubmit their accoutns for the period previously signed off.
So please take a minute to consider, the EFL governs your club. Good luck with that.