Football League chief denies he has vendetta against Derby County despite warning

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Exterior view of Derby County's home ground Pride Park Stadium – Football League chief insists he does not want Derby County relegated or expelled - GETTY IMAGES
Exterior view of Derby County's home ground Pride Park Stadium – Football League chief insists he does not want Derby County relegated or expelled - GETTY IMAGES

Trevor Birch, the Football League’s chief executive, insisted on Monday there is “no vendetta” against Derby County but has warned the club’s administrators to deliver proof of funds by February 1.

Stricken Championship club Derby are facing the threat of expulsion from the league and administrators Quantuma have just over two weeks to provide evidence they have the £8 million required to fulfil the season.

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Three bidders are locked in talks over a potential takeover, including former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, but compensation claims from Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers – believed to total around £45 million – are delaying the sale process.

The EFL has approached Middlesbrough and Wycombe in a bid to thrash out a resolution, while Birch and other officials met with Derbyshire MPs to discuss the escalating crisis on Monday.

With cash-flow drying out, Quantuma are under pressure to name a preferred bidder or face the prospect of player sales to raise money.

In a rare statement on Monday night, Birch outlined the EFL’s position and has defended the governing body against accusations of an agenda against one of English football’s founder members.

“Suggestions the EFL want Derby relegated or expelled are completely fabricated and entirely false,” he said.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the league is not making any attempts to block any sale of Derby, but instead attempting to do the right thing by all parties. The EFL has no vendetta against any of its member clubs.

“We are taking proactive steps to work with the administrators to find sensible solutions that will see the club secure a long-term future.”

Quantuma were appointed in September and said on Friday that the compensation claims were a major barrier to a takeover.

Middlesbrough and Wycombe are pursuing Derby for alleged loss of income due to the club’s financial breaches under former owner Mel Morris.

Birch said: “We are aware that Derby consider the claims to be spurious but, despite this, the current bidders appear unwilling to assume the risk of defending them.

“In contrast, Middlesbrough and Wycombe consider the claims to have merit, and that their rights will be adversely affected if Derby can extinguish or compromise the claims using the insolvency process.

“The EFL is keen to try and resolve the current impasse. The EFL invited each of the administrators, Middlesbrough, and Wycombe to make submissions on this point last week, and we are now in the process of reviewing those submissions with a view to identifying a route to resolve the conflict.”

Birch has reiterated, however, that Quantuma must provide confirmation of funding before February 1 and insisted that they have not given assurances despite repeated requests.

Derby were placed under a new transfer embargo on Friday as a result, with manager Wayne Rooney unable to make any signings or offer defender Phil Jagielka a new contract.

Birch said: “We have revisited the funding requirements with the administrators on a number of occasions since their appointment, and last week the EFL asked them for updated details on how the club plans to continue to trade whilst in administration, including a funding plan that will enable it to complete the current season and all remaining fixtures in the 2021/22 campaign.

“The response was to highlight the specific figure Derby needed in order to fulfil its fixture obligations for the remainder of 2021/22 and whilst potential funding options were tabled by the administrators, they could not give the necessary assurances that the funding was guaranteed to enable the club to finish the season.

“As a consequence, the league made the decision that the club should not be permitted to register any new players until the necessary funding was in place. The deadline for provision of the funded plans was further extended to 1 February 2022.”

Derby have been docked 21 points this season for administration and historic financial breaches, but the win over Sheffield United on Saturday lifted them off the bottom of the table.