Derby County’s debts are believed to be more than a staggering £60m, Sky Sports News has been told.
One source has told SSN they have never seen such a high level of debt in any Championship football club.
The club has amassed almost £30m of debt with HMRC, owes a further £20m to the US investment firm MSD via various loans secured on the stadium, and a further £10m is owed to other “football creditors”.
Several more millions are owed to non-secured creditors, though they are likely to receive much less than the full amount.
Derby benefitted from HMRC’s unilateral decision not to issue any winding-up orders against football clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, but that has allowed the debt to spiral.
This is largely because of Derby’s lack of income when games were postponed, and when Pride Park was empty.
Negotiations are ongoing with HMRC. Derby’s administrators are desperate to reduce the tax burden and make the club more palatable to would-be buyers. Similar discussions are ongoing with MSD and the other creditors.
That huge level of debt, together with the fact that Pride Park is still owned by Mel Morris, are major issues that must be addressed in the next four weeks if Derby are to move forward.
Other key stumbling blocks are the legal claims from Middlesbrough and Wycombe who say that Derby’s breaching of financial rules cost them dearly last season.
Wycombe were relegated to League One and Boro missed out on the play-offs.
However, in one glimmer of positive light, Sky Sports News has been told that those legal claims could be addressed in front of an independent arbitration panel as soon as next week.
If that independent hearing does not succeed, the matter could be dealt with in a hastily-arranged civil court hearing before next weekend, so that Derby’s administrators can then focus on the other issues before they appoint a preferred bidder.
Another source has told Sky Sports News that Derby’s situation is “devilishly complex”, and that there are so many separate factors which could “send a potential buyer running for the hills”.
EFL chairman Rick Parry has told Sky Sports there is a willingness to “work night and day to find a solution” to Derby’s financial problems, in an exclusive interview.
Parry says the identification of a preferred bidder is “the missing piece in the jigsaw”, and insists the other clubs will work together to find an agreement which suits all parties.
“We’re willing to work night and day to find a solution to this to cut through the noise, to cut through the problems, but we do need that preferred bidder identified so that we’re all talking realities and practicalities,” he told Sky Sports.
“We can roll our sleeves up and get deals done and get solutions.”
He added: “The clubs involved are prepared to sit around the table. February 1 is the next point. But that’s in response to the indications that we’re going to run out of money.
“Now if they have solutions, brilliant. Let’s see them. Nobody’s is trying to prevent solutions. It’s quite the opposite.”
The Rams host Birmingham in the Championship on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football; kick-off at 1.30pm.