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Everton earns reprieve as points deduction for breaching EPL's financial rules reduced from 10 to 6

LONDON — Everton has regained four points in its latest bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

The northwest club's record 10-point deduction for breaching the league's financial rules has been reduced to six following an appeal, the competition said Monday.

The change in the sanction lifted Everton — an ever-present in England's top division since 1954 and a nine-time English champion — two places in the standings to 15th, five points above the relegation zone.

The club was found by an independent commission in November last year to have made a loss of 124.5 million pounds ($155 million) over three years up to the end of the 2021-22 season. The league’s profit and financial sustainability rules allow clubs to lose a maximum of 105 million pounds ($130 million) over a three-year period or face sanctions.

As a result, Everton was handed a 10-point deduction — the biggest sporting sanction in the Premier League’s 31-year history — that dropped the team into the bottom three and sparked fury among the team's fans.

Everton launched an appeal against the severity of that decision and, three months later, the Premier League said an appeals board upheld two of the Merseyside club's nine grounds for that appeal, citing “legal errors” made by the commission.

Those errors were finding that Everton had been “less than frank” about what it told the Premier League about debt linked to the club's new stadium, and not taking into account available benchmarks for sanctions, such as those handed out in England's lower-league for financial mismanagement.

That led to the points deduction being trimmed by four. Luton, which is in third-to-last place and occupies the final relegation spot, is now four points adrift of safety.

Everton said it was pleased that the appeals board overturned the original commission’s finding that the club failed to act in "utmost good faith.”

“That decision, along with reducing the points deduction, was an incredibly important point of principle for the club on appeal,” Everton said. “The club, therefore, feels vindicated in pursuing its appeal.”

However, Everton could be facing another points deduction after breaching the same financial thresholds, this time for the three-year period ending in the 2022-23 season. The club is expected to discover its punishment in the coming weeks along with Nottingham Forest, which was charged for the same offense.

The whole process around those latest charges — including the outcome of any appeal — must be concluded on or before June 1. That is after the end of the season.

In what could prove to be an important judgment for future cases, the appeals board said it considers that “a six-point deduction is the minimum but sufficient sanction required to achieve the aims of the (profit and sustainability rules); it is reasonable and proportionate.”

The Premier League said its board was “satisfied” with both the decision of the appeals board and how the competition followed the disciplinary process.

In a more explosive disciplinary case in the Premier League, defending champion Manchester City has been accused by the league of about 80 alleged breaches of its financial rules and 30 more relating to its alleged failure to cooperate with an investigation. The charges were announced in February last year.

Richard Masters, the league’s chief executive, said last month that a date has been set for proceedings to be heard in a sports tribunal. He didn’t disclose that date, however.

Everton's majority owner is British-Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri, who took control in 2016 but has been looking to sell up. In September, the club said it had reached a deal with Miami-based private investment firm 777 Partners to buy him out but the takeover has yet to be confirmed by the league.

Everton was once a leading team in English soccer but hasn't won a major trophy since 1995 and has been embroiled in relegation battles in recent years. The team only secured its Premier League status on the final day of last season.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press