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Premier League recruits extra legal help due to volume of ongoing cases

The Premier League has been forced to utilise extra legal help in a bid to get through several ongoing cases before the deadlines outlined in their own regulations.

Everton’s appeal hearing took place last week, with a decision from the independent commission expected by mid-February — but further Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSR) cases against both Everton and Nottingham Forest are subject to strict timeframes which the Premier League is not allowed to breach.

In addition, Tuesday represents the one-year anniversary of Manchester City being charged with 115 breaches of financial rules, a highly-complex case whose timeline is governed by the independent commission.

An ongoing investigation into Chelsea over possible breaches of financial regulations and negotiations over the proposed EFL ‘New Deal’ is only adding to the workload.

It is understood that while the Premier League usually engages external lawyers for significant matters — usually the London-based ‘magic circle’ firm Linklaters — the sheer volume of cases, as well as the constant need to keep on top of more ordinary regulatory matters, means they are being forced to do this at an unprecedented rate.

The Premier League’s own rules dictate that Everton’s second PSR case, alongside Nottingham Forest’, must be concluded by May 24 — just under a week before the league’s AGM, a hard deadline where the next season’s shares are divided up.

These rules were introduced after pressure from clubs to regulate the PSR process — the relevant cases must be heard by April 9, with the independent commission deciding their punishment soon afterwards, before the May 24 appeal backstop.

Everton’s initial PSR case — they were initially charged last March — will take 11 months to conclude by the time that the appeal decision is announced. The new charges against Nottingham Forest and Everton will have to be fully complete in just over five months, underscoring the strain on the league’s legal resources.

No such timeframe rules exist around Manchester City’s long-running case — the charges against the Premier League champions supersede the PSR rules — with all dates instead dictated by the independent commission. Last month, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed at a hearing of the government’s culture, media and sport committee that a date for the main bulking of the hearing had been set — sources indicating it is likely to be this summer at the earliest.

However, it is understood that, even after this hearing, it will then take multiple months for the commission to reach and write up their decision.

The case has already been delayed at every turn by intense legal wrangling. Manchester City have employed a large and expensive legal team which includes two KCs — Lord Pannick, arguably the UK’s most high-profile lawyer, and Paul Harris, who famously represented Formula One team Mercedes in the 2021 World Championship controversy.

According to sources with knowledge of the case, who are not allowed to speak publicly about proceedings, matters have been “contested every step of the way”. The Premier League has also been frustrated over the delays, with pressure imposed on them to find a resolution over City’s case, despite their own lack of control over timeframes.

Premier League clubs are set to meet on Thursday and Friday for a two-day shareholder meeting. Thursday is slated as a ‘strategy day’ around new financial fair play laws (FFP), while Friday will see, amongst other matters, continued discussion on the proposed ‘New Deal’ offering support to EFL clubs.

After a meeting in November, there was optimism that clubs were close to an agreement, but in recent months, according to sources with knowledge of negotiations, a resolution feels further away, placing further strain on the league’s legal team as they attempt to draft a deal.

Increasingly, the Premier League are finding it more difficult in these meetings to find accord, as the changing nature of the league means they are no longer able to rely on traditional alliances — such as the ‘big six’ versus the remainder — and instead have more fluctuating factions, created by the rise of multi-club ownership models and hedge fund investment.

The Premier League have been contacted for comment.

(Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

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