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EFL demands closer involvement in sale of Derby County after deadline for Kirchner takeover passes 

EFL demands closer involvement in sale of Derby County after deadline for Chris Kirchner takeover passes

  • Mike Ashley has confirmed that he retains an interest in buying Derby County
  • US businessman Chris Kirchner has failed to meet a deadline for club’s takeover
  • Ashley has since written to Derby’s administrators saying he is ready to transact

Football League bosses have pledged to assume greater control of Derby’s fight for survival amid fears the club will be unable to begin their League One campaign next month.

In a huge vote of no-confidence in administrators Quantuma, the EFL said in a statement on Sunday that they would be now be negotiating more directly with bidders for Derby, who are managed by former England captain Wayne Rooney.

The League One fixtures are due to be announced on June 23 and the EFL hope that by intervening now, they can accelerate the process, with doubts about how Derby will continue be funded if the current situation persists. 

Former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley remains interested in buying the Rams and has the funds to complete the transaction.

‘The League is increasingly concerned that the ongoing delays in the sale process now present a real risk to the integrity of next season’s competition, with the 2022/23 fixture list due to be released in less than two weeks, and need to act now in the best interests of the EFL,’ read the statement.

‘The EFL has informed the Administrators that… the EFL is now to be made a party to all correspondence and discussions between the Administrators, and any and all potential bidders, with an acknowledgment that the League will be able to negotiate directly in relation to matters concerning the transfer of the share in the EFL.’ 

The English Football League has ramped up the pressure on Derby’s administrators

Until now – and as is customary – the EFL have kept their distance from negotiations between Quantuma and interested parties. 

Yet the Rams have been in administration since September and have still not been sold, after US businessman Chris Kirchner – named preferred bidder in April – missed two deadlines to complete his takeover.

The League’s move shows their alarm at the way the process has been conducted so far. Over the weekend, Kirchner’s camp were still talking up his prospects of completing a deal, though there are serious doubts about his ability to do so.

Ashley, meanwhile, sent a strongly-worded letter to the administrators via his legal team confirming his desire to ‘acquire the club’s business and assets’. Another group, fronted by former Rams chairman Andy Appleby, is also waiting in the wings.

Derby were relegated from the Championship last season after having 21 points deducted, 12 for entering administration and nine for historical financial breaches. The club are scheduled to return to pre-season training later this month with only five senior players currently under contract.

Speaking in April, Rooney said: ‘I want to rebuild this club – but the takeover has to happen. If it doesn’t, I’m really unsure of my future and the club’s future. This takeover has to happen quick.’ 

Even if Derby are brought out of administration to suit the EFL’s timescales, potential buyers must agree to pay unsecured football creditors at least 25 per cent of what they are owed, otherwise the club would lose a minimum of 15 points.

EFL regulations state that where a club seeks to exit administration without paying a ‘minimum dividend’, a fresh points penalty is likely to be imposed. Unsecured creditors can include smaller local businesses who rely on matchday income, or other services such as St John’s Ambulance.