Forest Hit For Four

There’s never a dull moment being a Forest supporter is there? Just as the Premiership and Championship leagues take a two-week breather for international fixtures, the City Ground is febrile with frustration at the outcome of the most recent match: Nottingham Forest FC v The Premiership. The venue for this clash between lawyers representing the Reds and an independent commission on behalf of the league was in court. Such is the nature of the game these days, where so much business takes place off the pitch.

Still, there are clear reasons as to why Forest landed in the dock. They breached Premier league Profit and Sustainability rules. At which point, our response is likely to be that eyes glaze over at the prospect of sifting through details of the evidence, or we all suddenly become experts on finance in football. ‘Mitigating circumstances’, we could claim – as Forest did – meant that they were a special case. ‘Aren’t we all?’ I hear you say.

No doubt all of us connected with the club, from fans to players and owners, would wish that the rules were different. Why can’t there be extenuating circumstances for newly promoted clubs, for example? But the rules were introduced for good reason: to prevent high-stakes spending impacting on the fundamental financial  security of clubs. We might feel there are caveats in the rules, that they need updating or reviewing but, as they stand, Forest broke them.

Since those heady days of a 2022 summer record spending spree, when the Reds came top-ofthe-table in the international league of big spenders, many fans and followers of football have wondered how those actions could come back to haunt the club. And now they have. The most ardent Reds’ supporters lost track of just how many new transfer signings were heading Nottingham-way. All actions have consequences.

In the lead-up to the current debacle, the chatter on the terraces turned to the nature of the punishment. Forest might have a good case, most fans seemed to say, but they would pay for their profligacy. It’s in this department – the resulting punishment – that things begin to become murky. Of the rules there can be no doubt: all twenty clubs sign up to them and that is a welcome act of transparency. Consequences of rule-breaking are more opaque.

Alongside Forest’s struggle for points on and off the pitch, Everton find themselves similarly placed: only partly in control of their own fate. Initially deducted a whopping ten points for contravening financial rules, their appeal had that reduced to six points. Forest have been docked four points and intend to appeal. This does not look like a convincing, consistent or fair process. It is not a set of outcomes to inspire confidence in the system. A smell of the arbitrary about it. The word ‘lottery’ comes to mind.

And if we followers of football aren’t convinced about the ways in which rule-breaking is punished, a quick check on other clubs under investigation raises questions about the integrity of Premiership procedures too. Chelsea’s huge over-spending is yet to feel the weight of any Financial Fair Play consequences because of amortisation (a word I’d never heard of until recently but am now heartily sick of hearing!). It’s a practice whereby – in a sleight-of-hand piece of accountancy wizardry – players are signed on under eight year contracts, thus spreading fees over time to lessen their immediate impact.

If all of this is beginning to sound labyrinthine, what about the case of Manchester City? Or should that be the vanishing case? Over a dozen or more years, they’ve allegedly gathered more examples of financial rule-breaking than they’re likely to amass in points at the end of the season! So much for consistency and transparency.

These are just a few of the many ongoing issues that need to be addressed in the game, with clarity and dispassion. Today’s announcement by the government that plans for an independent football regulator are to progress as the Football Governance Bill reaches parliament, is welcome but overdue. By the time you read this, we should know more about its remit, including how the voices of football supporters get to be heard.

In the meantime, Forest will fight their cause in court again but it’s to performances on the pitch where they have most influence. They’ve sailed too close to the wind in their transfer dealings and paid the price. Let’s hope that doesn’t include sinking at the end of the season.

*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @NFFC Nottingham Forest have been docked four points off the Premier League.

One thought on “Forest Hit For Four

  1. Cannot believe any government intervention will benefit anyone. Mind you they are good at breaking the rules and getting away with it

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