EFL: The Wrong Hill

Birmingham City confirmed on Wednesday that the EFL have notified the club of its intention to appeal the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Commission. The club had all charges dismissed by the Commission in a judgement that was confirmed on March 6.


While Birmingham Sports Holdings have also confirmed that the club had been notified in a voluntary announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Wednesday, the EFL have remained silent since the exclusive report from John Percy in the Telegraph on Tuesday night.

It doesn’t take a genius to point out that the timing of this news is absolutely horrific.

Like the rest of the world, football is in crisis at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic with the FA Chairman Greg Clarke stating that there is a danger that clubs and leagues will be lost as finances collapse.

The big question for me is how and why this news broke in the first place.

The window for an appeal against the decision was very short – just two weeks. As the decision was given on March 6, that means that the appeal had to have been lodged by March 20 with the club also notified by this date.

Yet the news was broken by Percy on April 7, nearly three weeks after the appeal window ended.

Thus I have two questions in my mind – who was the person who gave Percy the news, and more importantly, why now?

I’ve long suspected that Percy has a good connection at the EFL as he has been on the button quite a few times with these disciplinary related pieces. Therefore it would appear to be sensible to assume that the EFL are the people who have given Percy the tip.

The second question is much tougher. The nature of his article as an exclusive makes me think he wasn’t sat on it for very long – so why would the EFL tip off a journalist about this nearly three weeks after the event?

Which makes me wonder if Blues tipped off Percy in a bid to bring more pressure on the EFL for appealing the judgement at such an awful time.

Make no mistake, the club are fuming about it and I have every belief they will do what they can to not only defend themselves robustly. Whether they can make a counter claim against the EFL is another thing.

The big theme among Blues fans is the idea that the EFL has some kind of vendetta against the club.

It’s not hard to imagine why that might be the case.

Blues are now up for their third P&S hearing while other clubs seemingly get away with murder financially.

Throw in some awful refereeing performances this season and I can easily understand why fans believe it.

I don’t believe it’s true though.

While people might point out other clubs that have not had their collars felt yet, I think there is some things that are being missed.

For example. Sheffield Wednesday and Derby both have yet to have been sanctioned for breaching P&S rules, despite both being charged.

This is a time factor; the first hearing Blues faced was nine months after being charged; the second ten months.

Sheffield Wednesday were charged in November of last year, while Derby faced charges in January.

I know right now that feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only five months – which means based on the length of time it took to arrange the hearings for Blues that there is good reason why neither Wednesday nor Derby have had their hearings yet.

It’s the same with comparing how much other clubs have lost in their accounts. One of the problems with P&S is the opacity of it all; the actual “result” for P&S purposes is different to the bottom line in the accounts which means it’s hard to know who is actually failing.

Unless we as fans are given a clearer indication of who is toeing the line and who isn’t, it’s very hard for us to make the judgement call of who is being “picked on”.

The truth is vendetta or not, the timing of this from the EFL is shockingly poor and shows their lack of grip on what is important right now.

I honestly don’t believe appealing against a decision to sanction Birmingham City is the hill they should choose to be making their last stand on.

For me, the coronavirus pandemic has shown the fragility of the football bubble, as clubs have had to ask players to defer wages and furlough staff to ensure their own survival.

Although some of our less educated brethren from across the expressway might have seen it as cause to mock Blues, I thought the early decision to ask players to defer wages was a sensible one that showed that the board and the club were working quickly to mitigate things as best they could.

As a furloughed worker myself I have nothing but sympathy for the people across the football industry who have seen themselves either told to stay home for a while – or worse made redundant due to the ongoing crisis.

While the lack of matchday income is potentially endangering for smaller clubs, the possibility that there may be an interruption in the millions received from broadcasters should cause alarm bells to be ringing loudly at even the most prestigious Premier League outfits.

If the EFL had anything about them, they would have been doing what they could from the get go to help protect their clubs rather than whining behind the scenes because clubs pre-empted them by getting on with sorting their own situations.

Being brutally honest, it’s my hope that this crisis forces the change in football that has been needed for some time.

It’s been obvious for many years that the EFL isn’t really fit for the job it holds, and I hope that this crisis finally forces the EFL into change – or for another independent regulatory body brought in that can do a better job for all clubs.

Instead of fuming at the EFL for picking on Blues, let’s be mad at them for being awful at their job and do what we can to bring about change.