Editorial: EFL Questions

It’s safe to say the EFL are not the most popular people with Blues fans right now, judging by social media. I’ve seen everything from calls for the EFL to explain the constraints they have placed against Birmingham City to demands for the Blues Trust to hold the EFL to account.

Finances and BCFC

I can completely understand why fans might feel aggrieved towards the EFL.

For the average person it would be reasonable to think that the EFL have been heavy-handed in their treatment of Blues.

In the absence of much hard information, it’s obvious people are going to want answers – but as I’ve often thought much thought has to be given to the questions that are posed.

On Saturday I asked on the Facebook page for this website what questions they would put to the EFL if they could.

I did this because I wanted to try and gauge what people wanted to understand, and where the misconceptions were.

Unsurprisingly, there was a common theme in many questions people posted in response to mine. I’ve grouped them together for ease of reading.

One of the common questions was why Blues are being singled out for punishment.

For example, there are complaints that it seems Blues are getting the proverbial book at them, when QPR and Bournemouth have only recently been fined.

This is an easy question to answer, simply because QPR/Bournemouth and Blues breached different rules. QPR and Bournemouth were punished for breaching the old FFP limits. In 2016/7, the EFL changed the rules to the new “Profit and Sustainability” rules, and it’s under these rules Blues are being punished.

Likewise, there are complaints that teams like Bolton and the mob from across the Expressway are being treated with undue leniency compared to Blues.

Bolton of course had the ignominy of their players going on strike for unpaid wages while the team from B6 were incredibly lucky to be saved by new owners as they circled the financial drain.

Our rivals from the other side of the A38(M) were embargoed for a while this summer – but not for “failing FFP”. They were embargoed as they literally could not prove that they had the funds to fulfil their fixtures and the EFL thought it prudent that they not spend more money they didn’t have until that was sorted out.

The fact they had two years of huge parachute payments has somewhat saved them from further wrath, while a huge infusion of cash from their new owners has also straightened the books somewhat. However, they are now gambling heavily on promotion this year and they could well be in a similar fix next summer should they be unsuccessful.

Bolton are a case I know less about, but it’s clear money owed was paid off within two weeks and somewhat normality restored.

Another common theme was that it seems Blues are being punished to a point that they can’t be competitive in this division any more – which then puts it at financial risk, which is the opposite of what the rules are trying to achieve.

Again, I can understand this question.

The wage limits imposed on Blues are low for Championship standards and have left us very uncompetitive when chasing players.

Not being able to pay a fee has robbed the club of the chance to sign Josh Dasilva or Joel Umbongo, both of whom could potentially have grown into good players who the club could then have sold for a vast profit.

However, I think there needs to be an understanding of why Blues are being so harshly punished.

According to Transfermarkt, Blues were the third highest net transfer spenders last season. It’s not the EFL’s fault that we spent badly in the transfer and loan markets.

And of course, Blues weren’t the only ones guilty of spending badly. Breaching the limits is one thing – many clubs ended the year doing so and had to work this summer to get back into line.

On May 17 I understand more than 12 clubs were under transfer restrictions – the “soft embargo”. On July 1 that was down to four – us, the B6 mob, Sheffield Wednesday and QPR (due to the ongoing legal issues surrounding their previous breach).

While other clubs did what they needed to get back into line, Blues did not.

In fact, Blues then proceeded to make a signing (Kristian Pedersen), which was massively outside of what they were allowed to do which infuriated the EFL.

An important thing to understand here is that the EFL are not a regulatory body, but a member’s association. Therefore, if you piss off the EFL, you are in effect pissing off other clubs.

This is where I think the EFL could be smarter with this disciplinary committee.

Back in June, the EFL looked to adopt a policy where it could take action against individuals – specifically where an individual’s actions while operating a football club is damaging to the standing and the reputation of the wider profession and the game of football.

I think, and I have to stress that this is a personal opinion, that if it could be proven that someone acted unilaterally in signing Pedersen, bringing the club into this situation, then they should be punished rather than the club.

The lack of transparency over the summer with regards to transfer restrictions, rules etc looks to be a cause of concern for many.

As someone who believes in transparency – and who has acted on this very subject this summer, this strikes a chord with me.

I think there is a lot for the EFL to answer here, and this I have to admit is the crux of where I think they should be held to account.

It’s clear that the rules are flawed – parachute payments distort some clubs’ finances wildly and give them a huge advantage while the sheer number of clubs caught out could have caused the transfer market to stagnate this summer, making it difficult for clubs to comply.

It’s also clear that even with stronger “fit and proper person” tests, there are still clubs suffering due to the actions of their owners – Charlton Athletic’s issues with Roland Duchâtelet are a current case in point.

However, the EFL would point to the fact that none of their members have gone into administration since Coventry and Aldershot in 2013 as proof that the rules are working to some extent.

I’d also point to some of the more critical comments I received on social media this summer as proof that there are fans who think that fans don’t need to know anything about embargoes or financial information.

For me, the simple conclusion I have is that its important more facts are out there.

I believe the EFL should be more open about embargoes – indeed, right now it seems the word embargo is embargoed.

The excuse that embargo situations are fluid and can change quickly which precludes making statements doesn’t wash for me – to me it just means that they need to be even more open and update frequently.

Likewise, while I understand the club are wanting to concentrate on positive aspects, I think they should be a little more open about this sort of thing.

I understand specific financial details need to be kept back, but telling a supporters forum there are no issues (as Edward Zheng did in May 2018) when there clearly were was in my eyes pretty dishonest.

Most of all, I think it’s important we as fans educate ourselves on why things are happening, so that when we do demand answers, they are to the right questions.

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