Charlton's last hope of retaining Championship status was dashed on Friday evening when the news emerged that the independent disciplinary commission appointed by the EFL had reached a decision to hand Sheffield Wednesday a 12 point deduction, but with the punishment to be imposed next season. Wednesday will therefore kick off in September on minus 12 points in The Championship while Charlton, if they retain their league status, back in League One.
Wednesday evaded sanctions for breaching financial fair play rules in 2018-19 by selling their stadium to themselves (which is permitted) but posting the income into their accounts for the previous year. The 12 point deduction is, however, not for misconduct, but for the original breach of FFP. The issue of course is in the timing of the deduction.
The investigation began in November 2019 and it was widely rumoured and even reported by mainstream media that the verdict was imminent in early July - still during the 2019-20 playing season which will not be completed until the play-off final this week. It seems completely unjust and illogical therefore that the sanction should not also have been applied for the 2019-20 season.
Both Sheffield Wednesday and the EFL can appeal against the decision but the EFL are unlikely to. Both parties will await the written reasons and will consult with their legal teams. Should either party decide to appeal it could still be up to a month before any appeal process could begin and the written reasons might not be made public for some time as releasing the information might prejudice the process.
The new season kicks off in six weeks, leading to the conclusion that the reason for the postponement of the sanction is pragmatic. However, that does not excuse the failure to start the investigation earlier nor to set and enforce an appropriate deadline for its completion.
We are left feeling this is a massive injustice. Wednesday have benefited from cheating for two seasons and won't be punished until next. This season the Owls took four points off Charlton using players that they couldn't have afforded if they hadn't cheated.
Charlton have released a statement to say that they are considering legal action. The view of Nancy Frostick in The Athletic is that success is unlikely. Because the original offence took place in 2017-18 rather than this season she argues that any legal challenge would be complicated. She also notes that Charlton are unlikely to get much support from non-relegated Championship sides because they will see Wednesday starting on minus 12 next season as increasing their own chances of survival. We return to the perennial issue of the EFL not being a governing body. Instead it is a member organisation where members- the clubs- nearly always simply act in their own self-interest.
For Charlton supporters this outcome is yet another kick in the teeth in a year when such kicks have been frequent and painful.