Could relegation of Premier League clubs be decided in the courts?

Could relegation of Premier League clubs be decided in the courts?

The four-point penalty imposed on Nottingham Forest for rules infringements is a reminder that things aren't running quite as smoothly in the Premier League as the organisers would like. It means that at the end of this season there will be at least a couple of asterisks necessary to explain the final league standings.

This is not a satisfactory situation, especially for fans.

These days you never know when a club might suddenly lose points owing to a ruling from "above" concerning an infringement of the rules. It is particularly problematic if it occurs near the end of the season when there is little time to recover.

There is also an increasing feeling that the clubs with the smartest lawyers will be the ones that survive. And no one wants to see the relegation issue being decided in the law courts.

It is too simplistic to blame the league for this unsatisfactory situation. In most cases it is irresponsible owners blatantly breaking the rules who are the culprits.

However there is a feeling amongst fans that only smaller clubs seem to face punishment while the big spenders get away with it. Manchester City are one of the heavyweight clubs that have been under investigation but a final ruling seems a long way down the road.

This week's announcement of an independent regulator must be welcomed although how effective it will be in sorting out football's woes remains to be seen.

As it stands, the clubs that are penalised just have to get on with it and if they are good enough they will escape relegation.

Forest's points deduction now puts them in the relegation zone one point behind Luton Town, while Everton and Brentford are also very much in the mix. However, Luton face a formidable run of fixtures with three of their next four games being away to Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Man City. This must give hope to Forest and possibly even Burnley who are showing belated signs of revival.

This is the first season in which two Premier League clubs have suffered points deductions, in both cases for financial irregularities. Everton were earlier deducted 10 points although this was later reduced to six. There is still a possibility Everton could be docked more points.

Forest are the seventh team in the top flight to suffer points deductions, two of them occurring in the Premier League era. Portsmouth were docked nine points for going into administration in the 2009/10 season.

In 1996/67 Middlesbrough were penalised three points for failing to fulfil a fixture against Blackburn Rovers. Bryan Robson was manager at the time and had claimed illness and injuries meant he didn't have enough players to field a team. The Premier League didn't agree. Those deducted points proved critical as 'Boro went on to be relegated.

Before the Premier League era Manchester United and Arsenal had points deducted after a massive brawl at Old Trafford in October 1990.

Forest cannot expect any sympathy from Luton. The Hatters were famously deducted 30 points in the 2008/9 season for insolvency which saw them plunge into non-league football for five seasons. It's all the more remarkable that Luton have climbed back to the top flight after that devastating setback. That same season both Bournemouth and Rotherham suffered 17-point deductions for financial mismanagement.

Derby County were also punished for financial irregularities in the 2021/22 season. The Rams were docked 21 points which saw them relegated from the Championship.

Let's hope that clubs get themselves sorted out so that next season no asterisks will be required.

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