The League Arbitration Panel (‘LAP’) has granted a limited aspect of the EFL’s appeal against the Decision of the Disciplinary Commission (‘DC’) in August 2020 in relation the EFL’s Second Charge against the Club relating to the Club’s amortisation policy. No appeal was brought against the DC’s dismissal of the First Charge relating to the stadium sale.
The LAP found for the EFL on the sole ground that the Commission made an error in law “in rejecting the evidence of Professor Pope that it was impermissible in principle under the cost model for the Club to take into account possible resale values of players” in relation to the accounts for 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons. The LAP rejected the EFL’s other two grounds of appeal.
The DC heard the original case over a week of evidence in 2020 included two eminent QCs and an expert accountant appointed by the EFL. It was found by the LAP to have produced an “enormously impressive and diligent” Decision. It had found that the Club had acted honestly, and its accounting policy substantively conformed with accounting standards. The LAP, which consisted of three very eminent lawyers, but no expert accountant, found that on one ground this was not so.
At the appeal the EFL accepted the DC’s factual findings at paragraph 54 of its Decision: the Club’s witnesses were found to have given truthful evidence about the amortisation policy, and their judgments were made in light of carefully researched and objectively justifiable information. The LAP did not interfere with that important finding.
The reason the EFL’s appeal took so long to determine was because of three separate preliminary issues raised by Middlesbrough FC and then the EFL, each of which required hearings and decisions by the LAP, and each of which was dismissed with the Club being successful. Had Middlesbrough and the EFL not brought those preliminary issues the appeal could have been determined in 2020.
The Club accepts but is disappointed with the LAP’s conclusion on the one ground that the EFL succeeded on. The Club and the EFL have agreed that the matter shall now be remitted back to the original DC who can determine what, if any, consequences arise from the partial success of the EFL’s Amortisation charge, and the Club is therefore currently unable to comment further.