During the past 72 hours, the EFL has met with a number of integral stakeholders including MPs, Government officials, local authorities and the Rams Trust to discuss the ongoing and challenging situation relating to Derby County.
In all of these discussions, the League has maintained its position that is seeking to work proactively with all relevant parties to find appropriate and expeditious solutions that will ultimately see the Club out of Administration and thriving under new ownership.
However, the EFL is disappointed to note that whilst this dialogue has been taking place there has been, and continues to be, a large amount of misinformation circulating in the public domain which is inaccurate, misleading and a distraction to the immediate objective of understanding how the Club can be funded in order to complete the current season.
One such claim made in the past 24 hours is that the EFL has questions to answer regarding a supposed deal reached with Middlesbrough FC linked to Disciplinary action being taken against Derby County for alleged Profitability and Sustainability breaches. These accusations are wholly untrue, serving as an unwelcome diversion to current matters that need swift and decisive action by Derby’s Administrators.
This claim was in fact heard and dismissed by an Independent Disciplinary Commission, the judgment of which was published in August 2020. With original charges lodged in January 2020 Derby County’s ownership argued that the agreed stay of proceedings by Middlesbrough FC against the EFL was an 'extraordinary bargain' with the Club bringing forward a series of procedural defences, one of which that EFL charges against Derby County were an ‘Abuse of Process’. After carefully considering all the evidence the Independent Commission rejected all of these allegations and claims entirely (see para 161 onwards here).
The League is similarly concerned by recent claims that suggests a broader resolution to ongoing issues is solely dependent on the claims from Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers being resolved, which are merely one part of a complex puzzle.
At present, the EFL is not in a position to make a determination as to the status of compensation claims by Middlesbrough and Wycombe under the terms of the EFL’s Articles of Association and/or Insolvency policy, as it could lead to additional action from those already interested parties and the wider membership of Clubs. The role of the EFL is to balance the interests of all 72 EFL Clubs and to make a unilateral decision either way could de-stabilise the competition and be viewed as reckless and unfair to all parties.
In an attempt to move this particular matter forward swiftly, the EFL has written to all parties with a proposed solution to negotiate a deal via independent legal mediation, alongside alternative options that would give clarity on the Football Creditors point quickly. The League is currently awaiting a response from all of those involved and it hopes to hear from all parties on the options proposed imminently.
Whilst clarity is also required as to the status of the claims from both Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers, it is also critical that progress on two fronts urgently be made:
- Funding – The Administrator as a matter of urgency needs to clarify how it plans to fund Derby County for the remainder of the season. By the Administrator’s own forecasting, the Club will run out of cash by February, and therefore sourcing funds is of paramount importance to ensure they can compete for the rest of the season. This is not an artificial EFL deadline, but the reality of when we have been informed the money runs out.
- Preferred Bidder – The EFL needs urgent clarification from the Administrator as to who the preferred bidder is. Without this clarification, no tangible progress can be made into solving the challenges associated with the claims.
In addition, further to a meeting with MPs yesterday, the EFL has agreed to take part in any additional collective dialogue between Derby County, Middlesbrough, Wycombe Wanderers, the Administrators, local Derby MPs and other relevant stakeholders that is requested and will progress matters.
While ultimately the affairs of Derby County remain solely in the care of the Administrators, the EFL is currently doing everything within its powers and remit to help navigate a solution. The League is exasperated that this has still not been resolved and that we are approaching the end of the transfer window and Administrators have still not provided us any guarantee of funds which are required under the terms of the League’s Insolvency Policy.
As a founder Member of the Football League with a proud history, the Club is of huge importance to the East Midlands, our competition and the wider football family and we all hope it can flourish once again in the future as a sustainable member of the EFL.
However, any resolution achieved cannot ignore or sidestep EFL Regulations or UK law and any solution needs to be found that satisfies the competition regulations and the terms of the EFL’s Insolvency Policy that was set and agreed by all 72 members, including Derby County.
As previously articulated, this a complicated set of circumstances that requires consideration of the EFL’s broader role as the body that oversees 72 member Clubs and not just those Clubs that may be affected at any one time. Any decision taken by the League must be taken on behalf of the interests of all its membership – including Derby County, Middlesbrough, and Wycombe Wanderers - and to ensure the long-term integrity of the League as a collective.