Not much doubt in our minds that words were being very carefully chosen in the announcement on the Rotherham United Official Site today. It is of course illegal to continue trading when knowingly insolvent. So the first rule in this situation is to make sure you don't, er, 'know' you're insolvent - if yer know what I mean, guv?
Additionally the Football League has rules in place for a ten point deduction for clubs going into administration. The Millers are currently trying to time events so that any points deduction doesn't affect this season - though a cynic might suspect that should the fate of relegation have transpired before the last game of the season they would have been into admin, and taken a consequently irrelevant deduction this season, faster than a rat up a drainpipe.
With both these factors to consider it was therefore a delicate balancing act to decide when to admit the position. So the statement made tiptoes around the question of who knew what, and when. The major issue is an unpaid tax bill of £571,363. Other significant creditors include former chairman Ken Booth, former director Trevor Smallwood, and ex-players who are still awaiting payments on their contracts. New club chairman Denis Coleman is in the implausible position of having to claim he did not know about this tax bill : "As supporters will be aware we did not have time to complete a thorough due diligence before we took over the running of the club." Whether technically true or not - and the shrewd option was to make sure they didn't affect such a report in time - of course they knew about the outstanding tax bill. The statement continues by admitting that the winding up petition from the Inland Revenue was issued last month, but claims it wasn't actually served on the club until after the present board had taken over. The attempt is made to infer that this was an unknown factor, with the board working : "tirelessly to evaluate and gain a clear understanding of the financial position at the club which has worsened with the news that the Inland Revenue has issued a winding-up petition for unpaid PAYE." If anyone believes this was news to the new Rotherham board could that person please contact me with an offer to buy the large diamond mine located at the bottom of my garden. No ridiculously large sum refused.
The statement continues : "...we have to inform the fans that in order the club survives and plays league football again next season it must now implement a voluntary agreement with its creditors to avoid liquidation which has been threatened by the Inland Revenue. The new board and its advisors have been working around the clock for the last few weeks but further to completing our investigations into financial position of the club and the petition issued by the Inland Revenue, the club has no other option but to make this proposal to its creditors. If the proposal is not accepted the club will go out of existence. To ensure the club fulfils its fixtures and survives through to the start of next season, the Millers still require all supporters to maintain their remarkable level of support."
The date for the creditors meeting has been set for May 5th, the day before the final game. No doubt if Rotherham were to be almost certain of relegation at that point they would try to go straight into administration on the Friday to take the ten point deduction this term; if not they will presumably defer enacting it until after the match on the 6th.
The petition from the Inland Revenue is due to be heard on May 10th.
Whilst admiring the new owners efforts to do the very best for their club, don't p*ss down our backs and tell us it's raining mateys.
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