Businessman Chris Kirchner has failed to meet a deadline to prove he has the funds to complete a takeover of Derby County, administrators have confirmed.
The Rams have been in administration since September 2021 and Kirchner was named as preferred bidder on 6 April.
Friday’s 17:00 BST deadline has now passed and administrators Quantuma are talking to “other interested parties”.
The English Football League has called for clarification of “how they plan to take the club out of administration”.
An EFL statement continued: “As previously communicated, the league is incredibly frustrated at the time it is taking to conclude this sale.
“With the league just two weeks away from announcing its 2022-23 fixture list, it urgently requires a clear understanding of how the club will be funded moving forwards, be that through the administrators or under new ownership.”
Quantuma reached a sale and purchase agreement with Kirchner on 16 May, and extended a period of exclusivity on two occasions.
But despite providing proof of funding to the EFL and passing the governing body’s Owners & Directors’ Test, Texas-based Kirchner has not transferred the funds that would allow the deal to be completed.
He has remained silent over the deal for the best part of a week, but sources close to him still believe it will eventually reach a successful conclusion.
Following the passing of the deadline, Quantuma said in a statement: “Further to our update yesterday evening and despite the best efforts of the parties, Mr Kirchner, has, as of yet, not provided us with satisfactory evidence that he is in a position to complete the acquisition of the club albeit he continues to work on this.
“The joint administrators are continuing discussions with other interested parties. No interested party has been excluded from these discussions.”
Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is among those who could now attempt to buy the embattled club.
Other local businessman have been meeting this week to come up with a contingency and lifelong Derby fan David Clowes, who has struck a deal to buy the club’s Pride Park stadium, is also a potential owner.
However, there is no guarantee any of them would be willing to agree to the same deal put in place for the American, who is co-founder, chairman and chief executive of software company Slync.io.
Rooney’s Rams future in doubt
Manager Wayne Rooney – England and Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer, who retired as a player to take charge of the team last year – could leave after insisting he would only stay if Kirchner’s deal went through.
Derby have just five first-team players left on their books for next season because of restrictions put on them as a result of the financial turmoil.
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.
The five – Krystian Bielik, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Jack Stretton – does not include a goalkeeper or any defenders.
Derby’s pre-season is due to commence in less than two weeks, with the season just seven weeks away, and there are reports that Rooney’s assistant Liam Rosenior is a leading candidate to become manager of Championship club Blackpool.
As Derby did not start last season in administration, they would be allowed to begin the 2022-23 campaign.
However, as well as recruiting enough players, they would have to show they had the funds to complete next season with a break-even budget.
Financial turmoil, relegation and takeover collapse
The season of turmoil at Pride Park has coincided with the 50th anniversary of Derby winning the old First Division title for the first time under the late, great Brian Clough in 1972.
The fortunes of the club half a century after that landmark moment could not have been more stark, with Derby relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1986 at the end of a season in which their very existence has been put in danger.
A 21-point penalty for going into administration in September and breaching the EFL’s financial regulations made manager Rooney’s task of keeping them up a difficult one.
The need to offload players to help finance the side’s ongoing operations made it all the more challenging for the 36-year-old in what was his first full season in management.
If not for the points penalty imposed on them, Rooney’s Rams would have finished 17th in the Championship table and comfortably avoided the drop.
Liquidation a concern
The concern now among some Derby fans is not about how to get out of League One and back to the Championship, but whether or not the club is capable of surviving long enough to even field a side in 2022-23.
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire said liquidation is now a concern for the club.
“There has to be a very swift solution,” he told BBC East Midlands Today.
“Administrators are now free to talk to other parties, they then have to agree a price, they also have to sort out what is going to happen in terms of where the club is going to play as quick as possible.
“Any new prospective bidder has to talk to the EFL in terms of obtaining and being successful in the owners’ and directors’ test, then put in a bid and pass the money across to allow the club to continue to trade.
“Failure to do that, and if the administrators have no further resources and nobody is prepared to pay the June wages, then they have to consider if they are in breach of their duties and the alternative would be liquidation.”