With the Championship club having a week to prove to the EFL that they can see out the season we address the pressing issues
Why are Derby in such financial trouble?
Had Derby beaten Aston Villa in the 2019 Championship play-off final, the outlook would surely be different. Mel Morris, a local businessman, bet the ranch and lost in his attempt to return Derby to the Premier League for the first time since 2008. They have spent 125 days in administration and are in a race against time to secure a preferred bidder who can fund the club until the end of the season and complete a takeover. The English Football League’s findings over the former chairman’s valuations of players led to a total 21-point deduction this season. “I’m most unhappy with Mel Morris – he is why we’re in this situation,” the manager, Wayne Rooney, said on Friday.
How likely are they to finish the season?
Derby do not have cash to cover bills beyond the January payroll and the EFL has asked them to provide proof of funds to fulfil their remaining fixtures by next Tuesday or risk expulsion. The cost of running the club is about £1.5m a month. The ideal solution is for the administrator, Quantuma, to identify a preferred bidder and move to complete a takeover, but it could also secure additional lending or – and this is seen as the last resort – sell players. Rooney has been reassured that no player will leave without his say-so. The captain, Tom Lawrence, and academy graduates Festy Ebosele and Louie Sibley are attracting firm interest. Derby are unable to make signings or offer contract extensions, which led to Phil Jagielka joining Stoke when his deal expired. The 18-year-old scholar Dylan Williams was sold to Chelsea for what is understood to be a six-figure fee. Derby were unable to offer a professional contract.
Are they going to find a buyer?
The administrator remains confident of an agreement, with at least three parties still at the table. Last week the Binnie family, founders of the investment firm Carlisle Capital, submitted a bid worth about £28m, which they believe to be the asking price, and that could trigger the former Derby chairman Andrew Appleby or former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley into bidding. Crucially, the club are thought to have had positive conversations with the preferential creditor, HMRC, over an agreement to pay significantly less than the £29.3m they owe. The Binnies are understood to accept any liabilities relating to lawsuits the club face from Middlesbrough and Wycombe, both of whom believe Derby knowingly skirted EFL rules to gain an advantage at their expense, but the bid does not cover Derby’s Pride Park stadium, which is owned by Morris, or training ground, which is leased from the Locko Estate. Under EFL rules, any buyer must pay football creditors – such as Arsenal, whom Derby owe for Krystian Bielik – 100% of what they are owed and unsecured creditors – such as small businesses – at least 25% of what they are owed, or the club would face a 15-point penalty next season.
What are the administrators saying?
Some fans are concerned at what they perceive to be slow progress but this may be the most complex football administration ever. “We are working tirelessly to achieve a successful outcome and still believe this is possible,” Quantuma said last week. “We understand the frustrations of the supporters.”
What is going on with Middlesbrough and Wycombe?
The clubs’ claims for compensation have proved a major obstacle, leading to a blame game. Middlesbrough started their claim more than 12 months ago and Wycombe last year after relegation to League One. It is unclear whether the clubs would be deemed football creditors if they succeed in their claims, which Derby consider spurious. Boro, whose owner, Steve Gibson, has branded Derby cheats, are seeking about £45m after being pipped to a Championship play-off place by Derby in 2019, and Wycombe at least £6m because Derby stayed up by a point at their expense after breaking league rules. Last week the Wycombe owner, Rob Couhig, told BBC Radio Derby his club were wrongly painted as “the bad guys”, saying Derby were guilty of “getting their hand caught in the cookie jar”. He added: “We are willing to meet and talk with people and make a reasonable commercial compromise.”
What is the EFL saying?
On Monday the EFL said a meeting between league officials, local MPs and councillors was postponed “to allow additional progress to be made by the administrators”. It alluded to “positive developments” last weekend and expects to hold talks with Quantuma on Tuesday to seek clarity regarding a preferred bidder. Last week the league said it “has no vendetta against” the club and wants “to work proactively with the administrators and relevant stakeholders to find a process which will give clarity quickly”.
How has Rooney given them a chance of staying up?
Rooney has shown his players a league table minus the points deduction, which has Derby mid-table, to motivate his squad and he has given his number to the supporters’ trust to strengthen the bond with fans. Supporter groups have appealed to fans to buy tickets for Sunday’s home game against Birmingham, expected to attract their biggest crowd of the season, and they discussed selling “virtual tickets” at a meeting with the administrator. The trust has highlighted the human impact on fans, some of who have raised mental health concerns, with many sharing their #MyDerbyStory on social media.