Football clubs have never truly been businesses, but that doesn’t stop some investors trying to run them like one. However, while some football club owners do succeed at balancing the books, the majority don’t.
Fans would argue that anyone who buys the right to own a club must see themselves as a steward of their beloved football team, and not an owner. This is because clubs commonly lose money and really, spending more than the opposition is the easiest way to create success.
Financial fair play was introduced to protect clubs from their own spending and the punishments are to ensure they are self-sufficient. But it doesn’t always work out that way and for every success story like Norwich there are teams running out of funds and dropping down the leagues.
With debts spiralling out of control, teams are punished for going into administration by getting docked points. Let’s take a look at which teams have suffered the biggest point deductions in English football history.
EFL Points Deduction Rules
Point deductions are sanctions handed out to clubs as a form of punishment. The FIFA Disciplinary Code states that clubs can be deducted points either in the season in which they are currently playing or in future seasons.
Ultimately, that decision comes down to the relevant authority; in England that is the Premier League or Football League. Clubs now have to declare they are entering into administration before the fourth Tuesday of March or face delayed sanctions.
- Teams that stay up are hit with a 10-point deduction, which may still relegate them.
- Teams that are relegated before the sanctions are in place are docked points the following season.
- EFL clubs entering insolvency are docked 12 points automatically.
- Premier League teams are docked nine.
- Due to profitability and sustainability rules put in place in 2016, clubs losing £39 million or more in a three-year-period will automatically be docked nine points.
Clubs can also be docked points for:
- Failing to fulfil fixtures
- Fielding ineligible players
- Match fixing
Biggest Point Deductions in English Football
|Team||Season||Division||Points deduction||Final league position||Relegated? Y/N|
|Luton Town||2008/09||League Two||30||24||Y|
|Rotherham United||2008/09||League Two||17||14||N|
|Leeds United||2007/08||League One||15||5||N|
Luton Town – 30 Points
Luton Town holds the unwanted record for an EFL team with the biggest points deduction in history. A total of 30 points were removed from Luton at the beginning of the 2008/09 League Two season. For misconduct, Luton was deducted 10 points and a further 20 points for failing to leave administration.
Luton was docked 10 points in the previous League One season but hadn’t pulled itself out of the financial hole the club found itself in. Such dire financial circumstances would see Luton be relegated from League One to the National League in just two years.
Derby County – 21 Points
Derby County is the newest addition to the list of heavily docked football clubs with 21 points for the 2021/22 Championship season. Initially, 12 points were taken from Derby but a further nine points were docked for this season’s tally and a suspended three points also looms.
As of March 2022, the Rams have a fighting chance of survival despite limited resources and such a heavy loss of points.
Bournemouth – 17 points
Given the meteoric rise Bournemouth had through the leagues to end up in the Premier League, this 17-point deduction in the 2008/09 season was a low point. The club was relegated from League One the previous season after going into administration and being docked 10 points.
After remaining in administration, another 17 points were taken. Cherries supporters can thank their lucky stars that Luton also faced heavy sanction of the story could have been very different.
Rotherham United – 17 Points
League One was full of financially struggling teams during the 2008/09 season. Like Bournemouth and Luton, Rotherham was docked 10 points the previous season which was enough to relegate them to League Two. The 17-point deduction came as the Millers failed to overcome administration.
Leeds United – 15 Points
Leeds United suffered a fall from grace from the Champions League to League One and in the 2007/08 season was docked 15 points for not exiting administration. Leeds supporters feared for their club’s survival but, fortunately for them, Leeds rose from the ashes and returned to the Premier League.