Barnsley are one of several clubs considering legal action against the EFL should they be relegated and Birmingham City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday be spared this season despite alleged Financial Fair Play breaches.
Derby and Sheffield Wednesday are facing independent disciplinary hearings related to the sale of their stadiums, while the EFL have lodged a second appeal against the decision to clear Birmingham of breaking spending rules.
The cases of Derby and Wednesday are said to be the most significant with both clubs within range of the relegation spot, while Birmingham have already served their points deduction punishment despite later being cleared.
The Owls are just nine points above the dotted line, while Derby have a 12-point cushion as things stand.
Should either of those teams suffer a substantial points deduction, they face the very real possibility of being relegated.
And that’s where bottom club Barnsley come in.
The Yorkshire club are seven points from safety but owner Paul Conway is not going down without a fight.
He has threatened legal action against the EFL if Barnsley go down without those aforementioned teams being properly punished for their alleged breaches.
“People seem to think little old Barnsley will follow the rules and not make a fuss,” Conway told The Athletic.
“If we’ve been wronged as a result of the league not following its own rules, then it stands to reason that we’d go against the league and its TV money and ask them to pay us the difference in revenue. We think that’s fair and we hope it will benefit other clubs who follow the rules and try to develop young talent.
“I’m an American and in American sports, we self-regulate — if someone breaks the rules, they are cheating the rest of us and we take action.
“We went through this two years ago, when we were five minutes from staying up on the last day only for Bolton to win and go above us. Everyone knew they were cheating the system and were hundreds of millions in debt.
“We decided not to do anything about it then but our attitude has changed. Relegation to League One cost us about £7 million in revenue. If something like that happens again, we’ll make a claim and we think we’ll have a strong case. We’re not asking for a change in the rules. We are asking for the rules to be followed.”
Barnsley, who are eight points behind 17th-placed Stoke City, were only promoted from League One last season. But it looks as though they could be relegated at the first attempt.
Though, that’s not hugely surprising given they have the Championship’s smallest budget and youngest team.
“We operate to a balanced budget —in fact, going to the coronavirus crisis we were positive for the season,” said Conway.
“That’s just how we do it but when everyone else in the division is losing £9-10 million on average, we expect the league to apply its rules. It’s pretty funny hearing some of these Championship clubs arguing for a bailout when they’re budgeting to lose money every season.
“It can’t continue like this — no other major league acts like this. If you have teams not paying players or defaulting on transfer instalments, that goes right to the core of what a league is for.
“These 12-point sanctions (for going into administration) are ludicrous. In Germany, France, Spain, all over Europe, really, if you don’t pay your bills or you are late with your financials, you get demoted two or three divisions. That’s it. You’re down. We operate in four nations and England is the worst.”
Speaking about the loophole of clubs selling their stadiums to their owner to get around FFP rules, Conway added: “Everyone gravitates towards the stadium sales but what about the black and white issues?
“We know of one club that didn’t pay its wages on time. We know of another that has been late posting financial statements. There are questions about contracts — whether they were paid or not. These are black and white issues.
“Every club in England seems to get the benefit of the doubt but the clubs who do it right get punished. It shocks me and I don’t understand it.
“If people start defaulting on transfer payments, there will be a ripple effect throughout the game. If clubs were struggling to pay their wages before the virus hit, what are they going to be like now? What’s the league going to do about it?
“If anything good is to come of this crisis, it must be a cleansing process for the game. The changes we want to see are going to be forced on clubs. Everyone will have less cash. If the EFL doesn’t change, we’ll just see an exodus of talent and those of us who are trying to create value, and are committed to youth, will go elsewhere.”
Luton Town and an unnamed Championship club owner also demanded action as part of the report.