Derby’s administrators could seek a court ruling over their compensation battles with Middlesbrough and Wycombe if the Football League does not back down from its current stance on cases considered football debt, BBC Sport understands.
Boro and Wycombe are both suing Derby over what they claim is loss of revenue due to the struggling Championship club’s financial rule breaches.
We do not feel in Pride Park that there is much chance that the claims will succeed.
However, the mere fact that they exist prevents the directors from naming a preferred bidder for the club, which they said on Christmas Eve was “imminent”.
It is understood that none of the three current interested parties are willing to commit to buying the club knowing they could face liability amounting to millions of pounds.
The administrators had hoped to ‘compress’ the liability but unless the EFL changes the status of the debt this cannot happen as all football related monies must be paid in full.
Administrators argue the claims fall outside normal “football-related” agreements on issues such as transfer fees and ticket sales.
However, the EFL say yes, knowing that Middlesbrough’s legal victory over Liverpool in 2002 on the transfer of German international Christian Ziege was considered a football debt.
The administrators believe that the current EFL rules are outdated as they do not take into account preferred creditor status.
Faced with a protracted legal battle which could take months, during which Derby will have to sell players or borrow more money to continue playing, the belief is that if the administrators do not receive clarity within the next week, they will will seek a court ruling. .
The only other option is to reach a financial agreement with Middlesbrough and Wycombe, although it is unclear where the funds for this will come from.
The idea of using funds to pay part of a £28m liability to HMRC has been dismissed as a no-start.
The EFL released an 11-point question and answer with chief executive Trevor Birch on Monday about the situation at Derby.
The EFL asked Derby’s administrators last week how they intended to continue negotiating until the end of the season amid heightened fears for the club’s future.
Birch said “potential funding options” had been presented by the directors but they could not provide the “necessary assurances” that funding to enable the club to complete the season was secured.
He added that the EFL had extended the deadline for providing funded plans until February 1.
Birch said the proceedings involving Middlesbrough were confidential and the EFL had not received details of Wycombe Wanderers’ claims.
“We are aware that Derby County considers the claims to be false, but despite this the current bidders appear unwilling to take the risk of defending them,” he said.
He added that the EFL were “eager to try to resolve the current impasse” and were now looking at submissions from administrators of Derby, Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers to find a solution.
Derby withdrew a contract offer for veteran defender Phil Jagielka on Friday. Jagielka has since joined Stoke. Scottish midfielder Graeme Shinnie joined League One Wigan on Sunday.
The added uncertainty comes at a time when the club are performing superbly on the pitch.
Saturday win against Sheffield United saw Wayne Rooney’s side leave bottom of the table and eight points from safety, despite 21 being deducted this season.