‘Derby without Derby County is unthinkable, but we have just 10 days before EFL guillotine’

Derby County have been given until February 1 to prove to the EFL they have the funds to finish the season, or they will be forced out of the league and into liquidation.

The club has been in administration since September after racking up debts of around £60M in a foolhardy bid to secure promotion. In punishment for financial rule breaches and administration, the Rams have received a 21-point deduction.

Despite the debts, potential buyers are waiting to move in but any sale has stalled because of legal claims against the club lodged by Middlesbrough and Wycombe. Meanwhile, the final days tick by.

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Here, lifelong Rams fan and the managing director of Marketing Derby, John Forkin, explains how it feels to see the club he loves on the brink of extinction – and he pleads with the EFL to raise its game. 

Derby County are staring into the abyss… Here lifelong fan John Forkin, who is the managing director of Marketing Derby, explains how it feels to see his club on the brink of extinction

 

You can change your home, change your job, even change your partner, but you can never change your football club, writes John Forkin.

For me, it was a decision taken on my behalf at birth. From that moment, I was unknowingly inducted into the life of a football fan; that dizzy cocktail of hope and joy, laced with despair.

As a Derby supporter, I have experienced all that in spades. And with my club now teetering on the brink of extinction, it is more intense than ever.

In a strange way, life as a Rams fan is as heady today as it was in a couple of crazy winter weeks back in 1975.

The club was a founder member of the Football League, but now feels abandoned by the EFL

In those glory days, on a chilly Wednesday in late October, I packed into the old Baseball Ground with 34,838 other souls and saw my heroes dismantle the mighty Real Madrid 4-1 in the European Cup.

As a 15-year-old boy, I thought this was normal! How little I knew about the beautiful game. A fortnight later, we lost 5-1 at the Bernabeu in front of 120,000 joyful Spaniards and we were out of the European Cup.

You might think that is all a long way from where we are now, mired in administration, gasping for survival, begging for a few quid to keep the lights on and players playing?

But it isn’t, actually. The history of a football club runs through supporters, from one generation to the next. The present and the memories mix together in a golden thread that ties a city or town together.

Glory Days… Derby County beat Real Madrid 4-1 at the Baseball Ground in October 1975

Francis Lee  was upended in the box by Real’s Jose Antonio Camacho (r) to win a penalty

It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, or even what division you are in; when your team is winning it is the same elation that carries you and every other fan away. It is the same togetherness that spreads out from the football stadium and excites the city.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

Derby have suffered a deduction of 21 points this season but thanks to a remarkable run of results and never-say-die attitude, they have dragged themselves off the bottom of the Championship table.

The EFL deducted 12 points when the Rams went into administration and a further nine for breaching financial rules.

After the 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday, Derby now sit second bottom, thanks to two goals from Tom Lawrence.

The Rams eighth win of the season moves them onto 14 points, eight points from safety.

On Saturday Derby play Nottingham Forest. 

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The hope and joy of our supporters revelling in the herculean effort of Wayne Rooney’s Great Escape is as intense now as it was in 1975, when Charlie George smashed three past Los Blancos and did us proud.

That cup run may have ended in despair, but this battle for the survival of Derby County is one we simply must win.

The English Football League has threatened to expel this grand old club, to be banished into liquidation, on February 1, just 10 days from now.

The epitaph will read ‘Derby County; born in 1884, died in 2022’.

Derby was one of the first 12 clubs in the world when we were part of the creation of the Football League in 1888.

Today, there is fear that the league, in some mad act of parricide [the killing of a relative] is in danger of killing us and in so doing, it will bury the club’s 138 years of history.

Derby County, four times FA Cup finalists, winners in 1946, champions of England in 1972 and 1975, European Cup semi-finalist… gone.

The reality of liquidation is beginning to dawn. Our fans now realise that disappearance can actually happen. But a football club is the heartbeat of families, and also communities. Derby without Derby County is simply unthinkable.

Derby is a city of hard workers, who have spent decades of their spare time on a Saturday afternoon or midweek cheering – or cursing – the Rams. And then spent the rest of their time talking about it.

Charlie George hit a hat trick against Real Madrid, he is pictured scoring the opener

Derby is a true football city, where we design Rolls-Royce aero engines, build trains, make cars. We are the same as scores of other football towns and cities and fans all over England must see themselves in us.

However, our club has made mistakes and we are paying the price now mired in the purgatory of administration.. We will no longer be a home to football if the EFL and administrators fail to broker a solution which meets the needs of potential buyers of the club who are ready and waiting.

This cannot proceed without some settlement to the differences with Middlesbrough and Wycombe, who have lodged compensation claims against Derby,

The EFL holds the power and its guillotine hangs over us and it is set to fall in less than two weeks.

All this has led many fans to suspect there is a vindictive agenda to see even more punishment piled onto Derby County.

Derby fans have been deeply suspicious over the EFL’s approach to administration

Derby’s illustrious past includes a 1946 FA Cup win. King George VI is pictured presenting the Cup to Jack Nicholas, the Rams’ captain following the 4-1 victory over Charlton Athletic

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We look at Bury. Another proud old club, who were engulfed by a financial crisis thanks to the folly of their owner. The EFL failed to help and in fact, in the words of the MP for the town, James Daly, it ‘destroyed’ them.

The EFL has to do better this time. We need them to heed the words of Government ministers, to listen to the appeals of Derbyshire politicians, civic leaders and fans and act now, with urgency. It is not too late, but it soon will be.

It takes a lot to anger this generally placid community, but the shock is palpable and the fightback has begun.

In a few days, a fan-led petition garnered over 55,000 signatories. A debate was held in Parliament. A march is now planned.

The Rams narrowly secured their place in the Championship last season and celebrated with fans in the car park outside Pride Park after the last game of the season

Celebrities have thrown in their support – from One Direction’s Naill Horan (with his 40million twitter followers) to football royalty such as Gary Neville.

Families are sharing their memories and experiences. We are holding fast to that golden thread.

Derby County and Football League legend Steve Bloomer, was a centre forward for the Rams in two spells, spanning 19 years between 1891 and 1914. In 536 First Division games he scored 317 goals, a record that is second only to Jimmy Greaves

Last week, after we beat Sheffield United 2-0, our captain Tom Lawrence gave his shirt to a five-year old girl and she has not let go of it since.

A local journalist has told how he was introduced to the Rams by his granddad and now he is desperate to do the same for his new-born son.

I know of a 92-year-old fella, who once looked after the floodlights at the Baseball Ground, and is now watching every game, reading every story, hanging on every word from his ‘new life’ in Australia.

The Punjabi Rams are bringing their community to Pride Park in ever greater numbers, tying them into the club and city’s culture and heritage. And through it all, the Derby County Community Trust, is still coaching and supporting thousands of young people in our city.

There is so much to lose for our fans, families and this city.

But in this madcap era, it could be you and your club next. When we looked at Bury, we didn’t see ourselves. And yet, here we are.

It’s true that under our previous owners, Derby County transgressed. Financial rules were broken. The Rams have been justifiably punished with a 21-point deduction and a transfer embargo.

We have no complaint about that. But we do not deserve a death sentence.

Please don’t let my club die. Show your support for Derby County in our hour of need.  

Derby are putting up a fight in the Championship despite their 21-point deduction

‘EFL DOING EVERYTHING IN ITS POWER TO FIND A SOLUTION’

The EFL is calling for independent mediators to resolve the standoff between Derby County’s administrators, Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers, the league said in a statement on Thursday.

In a lengthy release the EFL sought to explain its position and its assessment of the negotiations under way. It follows a Parliamentary debate on Wednesday in which MPs demanded more action from the league and Government asked for more urgency.

In its statement, the EFL said it was not in a position to determine the status of the compensation claims by Middlesbrough and Wycombe. Central to the dispute is whether those clubs are deemed as football creditors. If so any successful claim would have to be paid in full and those teams are believed to be seeking around £45M between them.

However, the league said it 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 EFL also stressed that the dispute with Middlesbrough and Wycombe is just one issue facing Derby County.

The others are:

‘1. 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.’

‘2. 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.’

The EFL insists it is open to ‘collective dialogue’ with all of the parties involved as well as local Derby MPs and ‘other relevant stakeholders’.

The statement added: ‘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.’

It added, ‘any resolution… 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’. 

The EFL concluded: ‘This is 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.’ 

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