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Derby County: EFL demands closer involvement in sale of Rams

Chris Kirchner
American businessman Chris Kirchner has been to Pride Park several times to watch games this season

The English Football League is to become closely involved in the sale of Derby County in order to secure their future in the league.

Businessman Chris Kirchner failed to meet Friday’s deadline to buy the club, further frustrating the EFL.

Conditions suspending Derby’s expulsion from the league, imposed when they went into administration, have been changed.

The EFL now wants to be informed of all discussions between administrators Quantuma and potential bidders.

In a statement, the league said it was “increasingly concerned” the delays presented “a real risk to the integrity of next season’s competition”, with the EFL fixtures being released in less than a fortnight.

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said Derby had been given enough time to complete the sale, but “further urgent proactive action” was now needed to “secure the club’s future as a continuing member of the EFL”.

“Following this latest setback for the club and its fans, it is vitally important that a sale of the club is concluded at the earliest opportunity and we want to ensure that this objective is achieved,” he said.

The Rams have been in administration since September 2021, when the initial Notice of Withdrawal was issued by the EFL.

The league has now issued changes to this notice, “given the lack of progress by the [club’s] administrators to finalise a transaction”.

Kirchner was named as preferred bidder by Quantuma on 6 April. They reached a sale and purchase agreement with him on 16 May and extended a period of exclusivity on two occasions.

Despite providing proof of funding to the EFL and passing the governing body’s owners and directors’ test, Texas-based Kirchner has not transferred the funds that would allow the deal to be completed.

Derby, who were relegated from the Championship last season, have just five first-team players left on their books for the 2022-23 League One campaign.

Despite the transfer window opening on Friday, the club is unable to sign players, nor able to offer fresh deals to those whose contracts are about to expire.

Analysis

Simon Stone, BBC Sport

The English Football League are keen for their move not to be seen as a hostile act.

However, there are important issues to address ahead of the new season that they need answers to – and they hope their actions will speed up the overall process of a new owner coming in.

The exclusivity period around Chris Kirchner, which has been in place since the American was named as Derby’s preferred bidder on 6 April, effectively stalled progress with any other potential buyers.

The EFL are keen to avoid that situation again. In addition, they feel their involvement would allow purchasers to go through their Owners and Directors’ Test – and provide proof of funding, at the same time as the procedure to buy the club, rather than having to wait for the second part to happen before the EFL are notified.

There is nothing in EFL regulations that would prevent Derby starting the 2022-23 season in administration. However, the EFL do require proof of funding for the entire season and a break even budget.

This is likely to mean costs being cut even more than they already have been, with the EFL wary about the make-up of Derby’s likely squad.

Bolton were forced to call off matches at the start of the 2019-20 season amid welfare concerns about large numbers of young players having to play against senior professionals in league matches.

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