FOOTBALL Opinion Sport

OPINION – Why Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers should step out of the Derby County case

One of English football’s most historic clubs are on the verge of going out of business, but they should be allowed to survive for the sake of thousands of people in the local community.

Mel Morris’ destruction of Derby County has driven the Rams to the brink, and from his controversial sale of Pride Park to the illegal methods of amortisation surrounding player values, the last few years have put the East Midlands club in serious peril.

Morris announced his intention to sell the club in late 2020, and after several false dawns with potential buyers, the two-time English champions were put into administration in September.

Administrators Quantuma have been unable to find a buyer, leaving the Rams in grave danger of being removed from the league.

The main sticking point is with the court cases of Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers, which the EFL say must be decided before the club can be sold.

Although the cases do have some legal founding, particularly Wycombe’s, they are holding back the sale of Derby and could result in disaster for the 1945-46 FA Cup winners.

Middlesbrough say that Derby’s financial irregularities helped them finish one point ahead of Boro in the 2018-19 season, denying the north-east club a play-off place and the potential riches of the Premier League.

That’s certainly a tenuous claim, while Wanderers could easily have been given a reprieve last season in the Championship had the EFL opted to apply Derby’s 12-point deduction to the 2020-21 campaign rather than the current one.

It would be a shame if both clubs missed out on any compensation, but both are well run and appear to be heading in the right direction on and off the pitch.

It appears unlikely that either Rob Couhig or Steve Gibson, the chairmen of Wycombe and Middlesbrough respectively, will step down from their claims, so a lot of things are going to have to change for Derby to survive in their current state.

The EFL have called a meeting of all stakeholders, including HMRC, to try and resolve the situation, but given the extent of Derby’s debts, any potential buyer will have to be parting ways with millions and millions of pounds just to keep the club in the EFL.

After selling key players Phil Jagielka and Graeme Shinnie to raise some funds, the Rams’ hopes of miraculously avoiding relegation this season are all but over, but it’s about more than that.

In August 2019, Bury FC were removed from the EFL and technically still exist as they were never liquidated, although they haven’t played a game since then.

Bury AFC have thrived in their first couple of seasons in the tenth tier of English football, with fellow phoenix club Macclesfield FC in the same league.

That could be the fate that befalls Derby, and even if Wycombe and Middlesbrough do back down, it’s very hard to say what league they will end up in come the start of next season.

The 30,000 home supporters that turned out against Birmingham last week shows how desperate the fanbase are to still have a club to support, and whatever league it’s in, that’s the most important thing.

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