Derby County: Are the Championship club finally emerging from 200 days of administration?

Chris Kirchner has been selected as the preferred bidder to buy Derby County, a club managed by England great Wayne Rooney

It has been 200 dark days for Derbyshire, but there is finally a glimmer of hope.

The debt-ridden Rams were placed into administration by former owner Mel Morris on September 22.

Over the next 28 weeks, the Championship side’s existence became increasingly difficult, with legal challenges off the pitch as a battle to avoid relegation unfolded there.

For more than six months, potential buyers have followed one another.

Livelihoods have been lost, the patience of supporters tested, with protests used to vent frustrations and marches organized to try to save the club.

Finally, American businessman Chris Kirchner has rekindled his interest in buying the Rams – three months after withdrawing an initial offer – and on Wednesday was selected by Quantuma administrators as preferred bidder take charge.

A sale has yet to be completed, questions over the ownership of their Pride Park ground remain unanswered and the club could yet face another points deduction.

BBC Sport examines how the Derby crisis unfolded and what could happen next.

Will Rooney rebuild the Rams?

Derby County manager Wayne Rooney (centre) encourages his players from the touchline
Derby County job is Wayne Rooney’s first in management

Rooney, England and Manchester United’s all-time top scorer, ended his illustrious playing career as Ram in the second tier before taking over as Derby boss permanently in January 2021.

He steered them to Championship safety last season, as his first full campaign in charge this season was crippled by the club’s perilous situation.

A 12-point penalty for going into administration in September was followed by a nine-point deduction for violating accounting rules. Players were sold along the way to help fund Derby’s ongoing operations.

Despite the setbacks, they are nine points from safety with five games left.

Rooney- who backed Kirchner’s initial bid to buy the club last year after meeting the American – has been resolute in his commitment to finish the season, but admitted last month that his future was seriously uncertain after making an “urgent” appeal for the takeover saga to be resolved.

He said a recruitment drive to find 40 players ahead of next season would be necessary for a club who are currently unable to sign any due to a transfer embargo.

Only five first-team players – Krystian Bielik, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Jack Stretton – have contracts for next season. Rooney has suggested that two of those contracts are subject to extension options, which could leave him with just three players.

“You can’t just pick players from scratch, you can’t just pick personnel from scratch,” Rooney told BBC East Midlands Today.

“I think we need 40 players this summer between the first team and the Under-23s – that’s 40 players that you have to convince to come to the club, convince them that the club is going into the right direction, convincing good players to come to the club.

“Then the staff, convince them they have a future at the club, convince the staff why this is a good place to come to work, the staff you want to try and bring in.”

Which division Derby will play in next season is yet to be determined, but they could start with a 15-point penalty wherever they end up if outstanding debts are not settled under EFL insolvency rules.

“Derby closer to avoiding extinction”

Gerald Krasner, an insolvency expert who was chairman of Leeds United when the club was on the brink of administration in 2004, said “Derby is moving away from extinction” but added he had “a few hurdles to cross”.

He says that as ‘exclusive bidder’ Kirchner will now wade through Derby’s finances, while the American and other associates in the takeover will also be tested by EFL owners and directors – which includes a review of his ability to fund the purchase, fund the club in the future and the source of that money.

In a Q&A with Derby fans on Twitter, Kirchner confirmed he intended to appoint former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook as Rams CEO.

“The first thing he’s going to do is get his team to do their due diligence, which means looking at the books and all the company records to see if there are any skeletons in the closet that he doesn’t have. don’t know,” Krasner told BBC Radio Derby. .

“If he finds something he doesn’t like, he’ll come back and negotiate the price or walk away. It’s not a tied deal.

“This [sale] going to take a minimum of two months to make, by which time we’re going to be in the closing season. Who will pay the salaries once the season is over? That’s another side issue to think about.”

The Derby’s Pride Park land, which is owned by former majority shareholder Morris, is not part of Kirchner’s offer and is another major part of the takeover now to be negotiated.

“If the land price is too high, he has a reason to walk away, so there will be another game of poker played,” Krasner added.

Kirchner tweeted that Derby City Council, which has been linked to a possible purchase offer for the stadium, ‘contributed’ to him returning to try and buy the club.

“Grateful to have someone to sort it out” – fan reaction

Derby fans unfurl a banner saying
Derby fans unfurled a banner at a protest this season saying ‘A founding member of the Football League with 138 years of footballing history – save Derby County’

Longtime Derby fan Lisa Howard has welcomed Kirchner’s renewed interest in the club and hopes the relationship already established between the Texas-based businessman and Rooney will be “a bonus”.

“I am forever grateful that Chris Kirchner wants to come and try to save the football club and fix this mess,” she told BBC Radio Derby.

“What I love is he already has that relationship with Rooney. He’s ahead of the game in that sense.”

Nigel Owen, of fan group Black and White Together, said the relaunch of the US bid after trying to buy Preston “is a positive reflection on Derby and what we have as potential”.

“You have to say potential because the current situation is obviously not great,” he continued.

“Things are happening and things are moving, that’s what we’ve been waiting for for six months.”

Derby County: A timeline of the Championship club crisis

How did Derby end up in this situation?

  • April 2, 2019: Derby report pre-tax profit of £14.6million – the club’s first in 10 years – but only after sell their Pride Park stadium to owner Mel Morris for £80million.
  • May 27, 2019: Derby are beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final, a game described by sports finance expert Dr Rob Wilson as “last roll of the dice somehow” for both sides.
  • January 16, 2020: Derby charged by EFL for breach of spending rules, relating to losses for the three years up to June 2018. The charges are fired in August.
  • September 7, 2020: THE F appeal against the deletion decision Spending rule violation derby, particularly regarding how the Rams measured player value.
  • March 17, 2021: Morris cancels plans to sell Derby to Derventio Holdingsproperty of the Bin Zayed group, four and a half months after the start of the talks.
  • May 8, 2021: Derby avoid relegation from the Championship on the final day of the season, with a draw against Sheffield on Wednesday. Wycombe goes down one point.
  • May 14, 2021: Takeover project by the Spaniard Erik Alonso is canceled.
  • June 24, 2021: Derby are fined £100,000 for some of their accounting policies, with the EFL developing a list of interchangeable fixtures in the Championship for the Rams and Wycombe pending any punishment appeals.
  • September 22, 2021: Derby are put into administrationtriggering a 12 point deduction by the EFL.
  • November 16, 2021: Derby are moored nine other points for violation of EFL accounting rules.
  • December 24, 2021: American businessman Chris Kirchner withdraw his interest to take over Derby, having first declared an interest in October.
  • January 27, 2022: A deadline to show how Derby will be funded is extended for one month by the EFL, a week after the league asked Quantuma’s administrators to provide proof.
  • January 30, 2022: Fans organize a protest march to try to help force the sale of the club.
  • February 11th : Derby and Middlesbrough reaching a “resolution” on a compensation claim brought against the Rams who had complicated the takeover attempts.
  • March 3, 2022: Administrators provide forecasts showing “sufficient cash” is available to complete the season.
  • March 10, 2022: The Binnie family based in the United States end takeover discussions after submitting a bid for the club in January.
  • April 1, 2022: Rooney admits his future as Rams boss in limbo as administrators are further delayed in their efforts to name a preferred bidder.
  • April 6, 2022: Kirchner is confirmed as preferred bidder after reigniting interest in the club a few days earlier.