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Middlesbrough and Wycombe suing Championship strugglers Derby County

 Championship strugglers Derby County are facing further issues in an already disastrous season as Middlesbrough, and Wycombe Wanderers are suing the Midlands club.

The Rams have already been docked 21 points this season. Initially, Derby were given a 12-point deduction at the beginning of the season for breaching the English Football League (EFL) financial fair play rules.

Then, in November 2021, Wayne Rooney’s side was further punished with an additional nine-point deficit. This was over breaches of the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules relating to the sale of Pride Park.

In addition, Championship rivals Middlesbrough and League One Wycombe, who were relegated from the second-tier last season, are piling further misery on Derby.

Why are Boro suing Derby?

For Middlesbrough, the issue with Derby County started back in the 2018/19 season. The Rams beat Boro to the play-offs by one point, leaving Boro just outside the top six.

Boro took issue with Derby for allegedly breaking the English Football League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules. These rules are in place to prevent financial mismanagement among EFL teams and ensure responsible spending to secure the future of football.

Since May 2019, Middlesbrough has been trying to launch a claim against Derby for their potential breaches of the EFL rules. Boro feels that they lost out financially for finishing seventh, not sixth, in the 2018/19 season. Middlesbrough are arguing the case that Derby’s financial mismanagement prevented them from a chance at winning a promotion to the Premier League. As a result, a messy and fierce legal battle has ensued.

Over the past two and a half years, setbacks and perceived ‘various procedural tactics to seek to delay the proceedings’ raised by Boro have stalled the legal issues between the clubs.

However, the Northeast club have persisted with their claim against Derby, which was initially rumoured to be around £40 million, before Middlesbrough stated that this was not the true amount in a recent statement.  

Most recently, a statement from Middlesbrough Football Club said: “MFC allege Derby County and its directors systematically cheated under the P&S Rules and that such cheating affects the integrity of the competition. At least two clubs, namely Middlesbrough and Wycombe, were directly affected by the cheating, albeit in different seasons.”

The statement goes on to explain that Middlesbrough doesn’t want Derby to enter liquidation and it wants their Championship rivals to come out of administration.

Why are Wycombe Suing Derby?

Wycombe’s claim against Derby is also for potential financial losses. At the end of the 2020/21 season, Derby survived relegation on the final by drawing 3-3 against Sheffield Wednesday. Derby’s point meant that Wycombe were demoted to League One, which the club argues cost them financially as it would have lost earnings by dropping down a division.

Wycombe have since made a compensation claim against Derby due to their breaking of the FFP and sustainability rules.

Both legal matters are ongoing and with the EFL. In a recent statement, the EFL explained its current position by stating: “”The EFL is keen to try and resolve the current impasse. The EFL invited each of the Administrators, Middlesbrough FC, and Wycombe Wanderers to make submissions on this point last week, and we are now in the process of reviewing those submissions to identify a route to resolve the conflict which exists between the respective positions of, on the one hand, Derby County, and on the other Middlesbrough and Wycombe Wanderers.”

Can the Rams battle back from another setback?

As a result of the off-field financial and legal issues, Derby has suffered competitively this season. The Midlands side has been placed under a transfer embargo for the previous two windows and they have been unable to recruit new players.

Despite this hindrance, along with the 21-point deduction, Wayne Rooney has done a commendable job on the pitch with his side. Although they were on -2 points in September following the initial points deduction, Derby has battled back, and they are now five points from safety.

With 15 matches left to play in the Championship this season, the Rams could well battle back and pull off a great escape. Even if the side does achieve the near-impossible, the off-pitch problems still remain.

The club remains in administration and the legal issues with Boro and Wycombe have impacted any takeover attempts in recent months. In January, three suitors who were interested in buying Derby were reportedly put off due to the ongoing legal battles. Any potential person or business looking to take over at Pride Park could possibly be hit with a big payoff if Middlesbrough and Wycombe are successful with their claims.

As a result, it seems Derby’s situation will remain in limbo until the legal matters are resolved. The club remains in administration, and it will remain in this financial state until a successful takeover attempt takes place.

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