Wayne Rooney has said he and his Derby County players only discovered the Championship club were set to enter administration after watching the news break on television, as they face up to a potential 21-point penalty. They will be automatically issued with a 12-point deduction on formally appointing administrators, which they are expected to do in the coming days, and stand to be deducted a further nine points, plus a suspended three-point deduction, for a separate breach of the English Football League’s financial regulations.
Rooney said he was not informed by the Derby hierarchy that the club, which has been plagued by off-field issues and financial chaos in recent seasons, had made the “tough decision” to file for administration but has since spoken with the chief executive, Stephen Pearce. “I initially saw it on the TV,” Rooney said before Derby’s 2-1 home win against Stoke City. “I haven’t spoken with [owner] Mel [Morris]. I am sure he has got other things on his mind. The players had no information and they saw it on Sky as well.”
Rooney said it was his job to restore dignity at the club and vowed to make the club as attractive to new owners as possible. “I spoke to the players and we have to be professional,” he said. “We know we are in a difficult position and there will be a points deduction coming our way but we have to do our job. Derby is a massive club and I have to get the players playing and make it attractive for potential investors to come into the football club. My job is to bring some dignity back to the football club.”
Derby have been in talks with the EFL over a settlement for their breach of the league’s profit and sustainability rules. Derby were ordered to resubmit their accounts for 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 after being found to have broken regulations. The EFL’s rules permit clubs to make a maximum loss of £39m across three seasons. In the event of a 21-point deduction, Rooney’s side would drop to the bottom of the table and the former England captain would face a near-impossible challenge to avoid relegation.
Derby blamed their financial problems on a number of factors, including chairman Morris’s struggles to sell the club and the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on revenue streams. Derby were the subject of two failed takeovers last season, from the Abu Dhabi-based Bin Zayed Group and the Spanish businessman Erik Alonso, while Mel Morris, who has been trying to sell the club for two years, is thought to have been in talks with an American consortium over a potential deal that collapsed.
“Last week, it became clear that the process which has been under way to identify a purchaser for the club likely would not be productive over the near term, despite negotiations with credible parties,” a club statement read.
Derby remain under a registration embargo, which limited Rooney to signing free transfers on short-term contracts that had to meet strict wage caps, including Ravel Morrison and Phil Jagielka. After their draw at home to rivals Nottingham Forest last month, Rooney suggested his job was about to get tougher. “It’s important we keep picking up as many points as we can,” he said. “We cannot afford to slip away, with what else could come to us.”
It remains to be seen whether Derby, who cited a “circa £20m hit” during the pandemic as a key factor for their financial difficulties, appeal the impending 12-point deduction for entering administration. Wigan failed in their appeal against the punishment on the grounds of “force majeure” after an independent arbitration panel ruled against them last year, confirming relegation to League One. Under EFL guidelines, a “force majeure” event stems from circumstances over which the club “could not reasonably be expected to have control and its officials had used all due diligence to avoid the happening of that event”.
Derby claimed their current financial plight was in part due to the EFL’s refusal to sanction the club’s drawing £8.3m of financial assistance in respect of settling PAYE liabilities, in line with other clubs. However, the EFL denied the club’s claim, responding: “The league is disappointed with the comments made by the club in respect of Covid lending facilities. The EFL entered into a debt raise to provide its clubs with access to funds that would support them in dealing with the impact of Covid and, as with any loan, this was subject to a time-frame and eligibility criteria which Derby County was unable to meet.”