Wayne Rooney has laid bare the chaos at crisis-hit Derby County by revealing he has not spoken with Mel Morris for more than six weeks and said the owner’s address in the wake of entering administration was insincere.
Morris met playing and coaching staff on Tuesday, 24 hours before the insolvency specialists Quantuma were placed in control of the Championship club. The administrators have conceded there will be several redundancies but said they are confident Derby would not be liquidated and that a buyer would be found, with six parties expressing their interest.
Last week Rooney said he and his players discovered Derby were heading for administration after watching TV and revealed at one point he resorted to ringing Morris from the phone of the club doctor in an attempt to get answers amid the silence. “I actually phoned him once off the [club] doctor’s phone,” Rooney said. “He [Morris] answered the phone, so obviously he could answer calls from the club doctor but not the manager. It was not ideal.”
The administrators confirmed Derby has debt “in the tens of millions”. It is thought they owe HM Revenue and Customs about £26m, as well as several football creditors, but Quantuma are confident of meeting the payroll of circa £1.2m next week. Rooney, who sat in on the administrators’ meeting with the Derby County supporters’ trust on Thursday, has put his hand into his own pocket to pay for things such as equipment to film training sessions. “I take this job very seriously and I want the best preparation I can get,” Rooney said.
Rooney said the lack of communication from Morris was “disrespectful” and left him “hurt”. “I haven’t spoken to Mel since 9 August,” he said. “Mel addressed the players and the staff as a group on Tuesday, which obviously I was in on that meeting, but in a one-on-one conversation I still haven’t had anything – no phone call, no message.” Of that meeting, Rooney said: “In my opinion, it wasn’t sincere, it was not heartfelt enough and it was not done with enough honesty. He has obviously moved on and we have to move on and put Mel Morris to the back of our minds and look forward.”
Andrew Hosking, the Quantuma managing director, said he was optimistic about Derby’s future and rejected suggestions the club could follow Bury in being liquidated, predicting that the club has a “95%” chance of survival. “I do not consider, at all, that this could be a liquidation scenario like Bury,” he said. He also confirmed they are undertaking “operational efficiencies” to determine the scale of redundancies required. The Quantuma chief executive, Carl Jackson, said: “We are just about OK for the next seven to 10 days but we will need some funding coming in early October.”
The automatic 12-point deduction for entering administration resulted in Derby plunging to the bottom of the Championship, on to minus points, and the club is set for a further nine-point deduction for a breach of the English Football League’s profit and sustainability rules. The administrators said they have opened “very positive dialogue with the EFL” and hope to sort out that issue before any prospective takeover. “The pain needs to be dealt with and dealt with in one fell swoop,” Hosking said. “That’s where we’re at with the EFL.”
The EFL’s chief executive, Trevor Birch, said it was inevitable that more clubs would end up in administration like Derby unless there were structural changes to the financial model of English football. While Birch said there were only a “small handful” of clubs currently under scrutiny by the EFL, he insisted that a benefactor-funded model of ownership, of the likes practised by Morris, will eventually turn sour.
“The benefactor-funded model always works until it doesn’t,” Birch said. “There is an inevitability that once the benefactor turns off that tap [insolvency] is what happens. They have created an unsustainable trading model which, once that funding is stopped, the club can’t sustain. Inevitably there will be another club along the line – how many and when you can never tell.”
The EFL’s preferred solution is to scrap parachute payments, but Birch said they were also arguing for financial redistribution similar to that promised in the aborted Project Big Picture, with a pooling of TV revenues between the EFL and Premier League, and 25% then going to the three lower divisions. Birch said he had had extensive conversations with Tracey Crouch over implementing such a change in her upcoming “fan-led” review of football governance.
“Fixing the financial cliff edge has to be the key,” Birch said. “We believe that can be done by cancelling parachute payments and increasing the level of funding that is available to the EFL and the figure we put on that is a pooling of resources and receiving 25% of that. Alongside that [the EFL will set] appropriate cost controls attempting to limit wages to a percentage of turnover.”