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Why a ‘Premier League = corrupt’ banner flew over Man City’s draw with Liverpool

The eyes of all those packed into the Etihad Stadium were glued to the contest on the pitch between Manchester City and Liverpool on Saturday. But some heads began to tip skyward midway through the second half.

A plane carrying a banner which declared the Premier League to be “corrupt” soared above a match involving the two clubs which had won the last six iterations of the competition between them.

Here’s everything you need to know about a serious claim made by a group of supporters from a club who weren’t even involved in Saturday’s contest.

The message dragged across the clear blue sky on Saturday was a clear one: “Premier League = corrupt”.

As has become a trend among modern plane banners, the protest phrase was signed off with a couple of hashtags. UTFT and EFC pointed to the authors of the message; supporters of Everton.

The Premier League ever-presents were docked ten points last week after being found guilty by an independent panel of breaching the competition’s profit and sustainability rules. It is the largest points deduction in Premier League history.

Top-flight clubs in England are permitted to post losses of £105m over three seasons – which doesn’t include expenses relating to aspects such as the stadium, training ground, women’s team or academy. Everton have been judged to have exceeded this threshold by £19.5m. The club accepts that they breached the regulations – while disputing the margin of wrongdoing – but are far less receptive to the punishment dolled out.

Everton released a statement decrying the penalty as “wholly disproportionate and unjust”. Clearly, the fan group behind the banner firmly agree.


The banner was flown above the most high-profile game of the Premier League weekend / DARREN STAPLES/GettyImages

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described his side’s trip to the Etihad as a game “I would watch wherever I was on the planet”. By buzzing their plane above the pitch midway through the second half, the protesters hoped to gain maximum exposure.

Sky Sports were broadcasting the match in the UK and didn’t divert any feed away from the sky-blue shirts on the pitch to the cloudless sky, dramatically limiting the number of eyeballs on the banner.

Aside from the somewhat scuppered ambitions of gatecrashing the biggest game of the Premier League weekend, the home of Manchester City served as a fitting venue for the protest.

City were charged by the Premier League for 115 rule breaches in February 2023, a month before Everton’s single offence was brought to light. While the Toffees know their fate – pending an appeal – City’s case is still being reviewed by an independent commission, with few signs of an imminent conclusion in sight.

Ahead of Liverpool’s visit, Guardiola pointed out that the cases between Everton and City are very different. While the Toffees’ indiscretion was evident from their annual accounts, City have been accused of deliberately evading the division’s financial regulations. The reigning champions, owned by UAE president Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, are alleged to have artificially inflated sponsorship deals among other accusations of creative accounting.

It was notable that the penultimate paragraph of the statement Everton released in the wake of the deduction read: “The club will also monitor with great interest the decisions made in any other cases concerning the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules.”

Everton fans have joined together to raise in excess of £40,000 in barely a week since the points deduction was delivered.

The majority of these funds will be diverted to Everton’s meeting with Manchester United at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon. Visiting manager Erik ten Hag was wary long before kick off, warning: “I can see the opposition and I can see they are mad.”

All 38,000 members of the crowd on Merseyside this weekend are expected to be presented with red cards carrying the Premier League’s logo and that familiar word again: “Corrupt”.


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