Wycombe were relegated on the final day of the season, having picked up 10 points from their last 5 games in a futile attempt to beat the drop.
In comparison, Derby County were in freefall, with a solitary point on the final day being enough to inch them over the line at the expense of The Chairboys.
In most cases, the table is a fair reflection of the results over the course of the season.
However, Wycombe have a right to feel aggrieved, especially as Derby have been found guilty of breaching FFP regulations.
Is there any chance that Wycombe will live to fight again in the second tier if Derby are docked points retroactively?
Derby and FFP
Derby were originally charged back in January 2020 after being accused of breaching financial fair play rules.
They were hit with two FFP charges, one relating to the sale of their stadium and the other concerning how player valuations were measured in their accounts.
In August of that year an independent disciplinary commission cleared the Rams of any wrongdoing, but the EFL appealed a second charge, relating to the club's policy on "amortisation of intangible assets".
As the EFL have said there is "no definitive timescale" for proceedings, it’s unclear whether any punishment will be applied this season, or if they could be docked points for 2021/22.
Of course, it makes a massive difference to Wycombe, who fought tooth and nail despite being outmatched financially by the majority of teams in the league.
In any case, Derby were found guilty, and the league say they will press for any sanctions against the Championship club "as soon as reasonably possible".
Wycombe have taken a measured approach so far, hoping that the league will do their part.
A statement was released on the club website, as they ‘feel we owe it to our supporters not to remain silent in the midst of media speculation’. It reads;
“What we know at this stage is that the EFL has won its appeal against Derby County for breaching Financial Fair Play rules through the club's accounting policies, and await details of the sanction. When the news came to light the club knew that a victory at Middlesbrough could – and ultimately did – enable Wycombe Wanderers to finish 22nd in the table, one place below Derby. We applaud the outstanding efforts of the staff and team during their 3-0 victory.”
For now, the “club trusts that the correct decision will be reached by the independent commission which has been appointed to judge Derby County’s case. We respect the process and are not contemplating legal action at this time, contrary to media speculation.”
As they’ve quashed any rumours that they plan to pursue legal action, we’re back to waiting to find out what the EFL decides is a fair punishment.
What to Expect
As for some media speculation of my own, it wouldn’t be the first time that the league has administered a punishment which has seen a team relegated as a consequence.
It’s just one example of many in recent years, such as when Luton Town were handed a massive 30-point deduction before a ball was kicked. They were always going to be relegated after being given such a heavy punishment.
Of course, Derby’s situation is different when all is said and done, and the decision would effectively be retroactively applied, which could cause further legal headaches.
The easiest option would probably be to fine Derby, or give them a point deduction that would start at the beginning of next season.
As for The Rams, they seem to have accepted the ruling after a prolonged legal battle with the EFL:
“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".
Once more, we’ll have to wait for the *Disciplinary Commission to make their decision, along with any appeals that are sure to follow after the fact.
A consequence of ever-tightening financial regulations is that teams are more likely to be caught out when trying to maximise their revenues.
It leads to situations such as the one seen above, where a smaller club ends up paying the price despite battling to stay up against all odds.
The difference was a sole point, but who will slip out of the trapdoor when all is said and done?
Most likely Wycombe, who gave it their all, but only managed to string a few results together at the end when all was seemingly lost.
However, we’ll also have to wait and see just how seriously the EFL views Derby’s indiscretions before they pass judgement with a final ruling.
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