Derby County’s financial crisis means local MPs seek further talks with EFL
Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch has been asked by a Derby supporters group to act as an independent mediator in a bid to resolve a dispute that threatens the club’s future.
Buyers interested in taking Derby out of records are wary of Middlesbrough and Wycombe’s legal claims looming over the club, which could mean they face significant additional liabilities.
At the same time, managers have been asked by the EFL to submit a funding plan by February 1 to demonstrate that they have sufficient finances to fulfill the remainder of their games this season.
Former Sports Secretary Tracey Crouch has been approached by a group of Derby fans to act as an independent mediator to resolve the dispute
The Rams Trust has approached Crouch – a Conservative MP and the chair of the football governing body’s fan-led review – to ‘put their heads together’ and break the deadlock with the parties involved.
Trust chairman Jim Wheeler said the EFL had made a commitment to the Trust to engage in such a dialogue at a meeting on Wednesday evening, and so did the trustees.
Wheeler told the PA news agency: “It has to be eradicated and it takes someone independent to probably lead that and get them all together and bang their heads together.
And we’ve approached MPs, including Tracey Crouch himself, to say, ‘Could you do this? Can you get them all together and just bang their heads together?’
“I noticed recently in the debate (in parliament) that she took a bit of distance and said, ‘Well, that’s not my day-to-day role, you should go to the Minister of Sport’, which is the other way we could approach.
“However, I think there’s an opinion that having a woman out there might make a little more sense from otherwise potentially very deeply held views from a group of guys around the table, especially if they’re all multi-millionaires and don’t want to lose face like that.”
Wycombe and Middlesbrough have filed separate claims against Derby. The clubs claim they were disadvantaged as a result of County’s breach of financial rules – in the case of Wycombe, by being relegated to League One instead of Derby last season and in the case of Middlesbrough, by a play-off place for the Rams to miss out in the 2018 -19 campaign.
Wheeler said he had some sympathy for Wycombe and Middlesbrough and could see why they felt “unjust”, but that it would set a “dangerous precedent” if either claim were successful.
The EFL faced renewed criticism over the situation that had developed at Derby, but Wheeler could understand why the league had asked the trustees to draft a funding plan outlining their ability to fulfill this season’s games.
Wheeler added: “Nobody wants to see Derby County die, so if they’re close by February 1st but haven’t crossed the line yet I’m sure they’d give them time to sort that out.
“But as the EFL has said, what they can’t do is allow the club to continue without adequate funding and then get out of the league at a later date because that would affect all the other teams in the league. So the EFL is doing the right thing in that regard.”
Wheeler says he is impressed with the way manager Wayne Rooney has energized the team and given them a chance to survive, despite being awarded 21 points for entering administration and breaking financial rules.
However, he says Rooney’s departure, amid reported interest from his old side Everton, could save the club.
“If Everton comes in now and we get compensation from them for taking him out of our hands, maybe that would save us,” Wheeler said.
“I mean it would be very badly greeted by Derby fans, but if it saved the club… it’s the same as a lot of the players. They have said: ‘We want to stay, we want to get through this and do work for the Derby fans, but if it saves the club, we’re willing to go if that’s what it needs. And that’s kind of the situation we find ourselves in.’
Supporters share their memories of following the club, and what it means to them, under the hashtag #myderbystory.
Wheeler said: ‘We have received some very distressing messages from the Trust stating ‘I don’t know what else to live for’.
“I mean, that’s really sad, but it’s the reality for some people. It must be resolved.
“All Derby fans are terrified right now about what could happen in the coming weeks.”