Waiting for this bloody EFL hearing is a bit like waiting for Christmas at the moment! Except in our case instead of rushing downstairs to find a horde of presents under the tree, we’re expecting to find Santa sitting there with a baseball bat ready to knee cap us.
As the Partridge Family once sang; How long is too long? (One for the Grandads, that) We were told that the EFL would meet with club representatives to decide our fate on numerous occasions now, with many of us expecting a decision to be made by the end of this month. However the official proceedings have been set back yet again as the judge, jury and executioners have postponed the meeting until mid-to-late March at the earliest.
But why is everyone dragging their feet? Well the EFL are a busy bunch with an important job to do dammit! It’s unfair of us to expect them to break into their busy schedule of giving Coventry City a kickin’, just so that we can have a speedy resolution to this FFP mess! We’ve only had to deal with strict transfer restrictions for two windows whilst being unsure whether we can offer our existing players new contracts or not. Talk about impatience! Selfish, selfish Bluenoses…!
As for Birmingham City FC’s delays… well, maybe we’re just hoping we’ll reach the promise land of the Premier League and escape the EFL’s clutches. We do love a final day Great Escape after all.
Enough is enough though. At the risk of sounding like a broken record; I’m of the strong opinion that our work is already done this season. I’m not saying the lads can clock off and have an extended summer, but they’ve definitely earned an early Friday finish.
There’s only one important game left as far as I’m concerned (no prizes for guessing which one) and I honestly don’t think a points deduction will affect us too much. In fact, I’m almost convinced that the EFL won’t LET it affect us too much…
This delayed hearing is unfair to the club staff, unfair to the players and most importantly it’s unfair to us. Reports suggest that representatives from Blues aren’t acting in the most compliant way and though they claim to seek a swift resolution, the EFL have also taken their sweet time in reaching this stage. For an organisation designed to serve and ensure the wellbeing of clubs and fans, the EFL does a pretty piss-poor job and they warrant all the criticism that gets levied at them on a daily basis – especially from our fan base.
However, I don’t believe the powers-that-be are looking to bury us in this instance. I could be wrong (let’s be honest, there’s a strong chance of it) but I believe the League are playing a PR game designed to make themselves look mighty yet merciful.
This weeks scheduled hearing was reportedly canceled due to a “conflict of interest”. It has yet to be said which party was responsible for the conflict but I wonder if this delay was almost welcomed on all sides.
The EFL needs to take a hard line on those that fail FFP regulations. If the punishment is too soft, then no one will be deterred from buying the title in future. However, they also won’t want to throw the book at one of the first offenders as this would leave no wiggle room in future hearings.
So allow me to suggest an alternative viewpoint…
Birmingham City are in the wrong, we all know that. ‘Arry spent transfer deadline day smuggling players out of Griffin Park and the club’s cavalier attitude towards finances was a slap in the face to the EFL. I truly believe that this was more a case of naivety than insubordination but regardless of motive; it happened.
If you want to argue over the purpose and effectiveness of FFP regulations then we could be here all night but by the letter of the law, we fell foul and thus deserve punishment. It’s not in the EFL’s best interests to cripple us though. No, this is not a case of Witton Delusion Disease and I’m not saying we’re “too big” or anything silly like that, but the already hated League won’t want to set a precedence for rocking the boat. Though they may not care too much about upsetting little old Small Heath, they’re fully aware that may be attending a hell of a lot of disciplinary hearings next season and risk rocking an entire fleet.
I’d suggest that the reason this meeting has taken so long to occur has more to do with our league position than our crimes. We’re likely to be hit with a points deduction and a large fine but the severity of these is yet to be determined. With Blues currently sitting 6 points of the playoffs and 17 above the drop zone, I’d guess we’ll be deducted just enough to make a playoff run slightly more unlikely than it already is but not so many that a relegation scrap is on the cards.
The EFL want to appear strict without upsetting the status quo. A 6 point deduction is the same as 10 or 12 at this stage. We are destined for a mid table finish today and we’ll be in the same position once the punishment has been determined.
The longer the season goes on, the clearer the league table becomes and if the EFL can punish us without damaging us then I believe that’s what they will do.
QPR were punished under an old set of regulations but the ethos was clear. They were promoted to the Premier League in 2013/14 and hit with a world record fine. Not a single point was deducted though and they were still allowed to spend the following year in the top flight.
Rangers went on to appeal against their fine and ultimately lost their case – costing them even more money – but the club was only punished within thier means.
Punished, not damaged.
I believe we will also be punished but not damaged. We will still be in the Championship next year and we will still have a pretty uneventful May. Hopefully we will be able to pay for our transgressions with a whopping great cheque and our transfer restrictions lifted in the Summer.
The worry is that the EFL decide apply our punishments next season instead of the current one, causing us to start on the back foot once again. This would also set an early precedent for future cases that they may not wish to restrict themselves with just yet though.
Either way, we’ll be alright. No matter how frustrating this drawn out process seems to be, we’ll be fine and I implore you all not to lose sleep over it. This may blow up in my face in a few weeks time (feel free to send me your messages of hate when it does) but I truly believe the fine will be great but the deduction will be a minor issue. We will be punished, not damaged – as we deserve.