DUNFERMLINE Athletic bought themselves time in their bid to avoid wholesale job losses and potential closure when they announced their intention to place the club into administration.
A group of supporters has agreed to fund the appointment of football insolvency specialist Bryan Jackson of PKF who will now seek to freeze the club’s £8.5 million debt and apply to the Court of Session in Edinburgh for administration.
Dunfermline had been issued with a winding-up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over an unpaid £134,000 tax bill which they had until 5pm on Tuesday to settle. The club’s owner and majority shareholder Gavin Masterton had resumed control of the financial crisis at East End Park after a steering group, which included honorary director and former manager Jim Leishman, was unable to broker a long-term solution.
“The directors of Dunfermline FC have today decided that their only option is to place the club into administration,” read a statement issued just three hours before the 5pm HMRC deadline.
“The administration appointment is expected to take effect within the next couple of days and the directors have approached Bryan Jackson, of accountants PKF, to consider being appointed administrator.
“The directors have taken this decision with considerable regret but believe that they have no other choice in the current circumstances. Until the administration is effective all staff will remain in post and the club will continue to operate normally.”
Dunfermline’s First Division fixture at home to Falkirk tonight will go ahead as scheduled. There remains the possibility HMRC could oppose the club’s bid for administration, meaning liquidation remains a possibility.
But in the meantime, there was at least a degree of relief from those involved yesterday that the club may yet emerge successfully from their insolvency event.
The appointment of Jackson, previously called in to handle the financial crises at Clydebank, Motherwell, Clyde and Dundee, was regarded as a source of encouragement by PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart who briefed the Dunfermline players on the possible implications of administration at their Pitreavie training base.
“At least there is some kind of clarity to the situation and we welcome that,” said Wishart. “I’m pleased it’s Bryan Jackson, somebody I have worked with many times before and who knows the football game inside out.
“We will be looking to have a meeting with Bryan in early course to work out a good course of action that will hopefully protect all our players’ jobs.
“There is more than one way of dealing with a potential drop in income and a potential drop in outgoings that the club has to get to.”
Leishman emerged from another trying day to express some optimism about the future of Dunfermline but also stressed that the Fife club still face a grave battle to get back to financial stability.
“It was either liquidation,where you’re done and dusted and you’ve nothing, or what we’ve done,” said Leishman. “We’re giving it a chance. It’s good news. I wouldn’t say we’re saved – there’s a lot of hard work to be done.
“But we’ve underwritten the administrator and hopefully now he can do his job and we can look for the long-term sustainability of Dunfermline.
“The people who have underwritten the administrator are people who care about Dunfermline and I’m really proud of them.
“He [the administrator] accepted that and he’s away speaking to different people that he needs to speak to. I would think that one of them would be HMRC.
“It’s not the steering group [who are paying the administrator].
“They’ve done fantastic for three weeks. This is some of the steering group and some other people that weren’t involved in the steering group. Hopefully we can get people together now and find a way forward.”
Leishman confirmed that Masterton, deeply unpopular with the Dunfermline supporters, who were reluctant to back a share issue by the club while the former banker was still in control, was not part of the group funding the administrator. But he sought to avoid criticism of Masterton.
“The man’s been having a hard time and I wouldn’t want to add to that,” said Leishman. “We’ve got to get the ball rolling and move forward and I’ve no time to be negative.”
It was also revealed yesterday that supporters had contributed more than £9000 to collections taken at recent matches, that money since distributed directly to Dunfermline players and staff, whose salaries have regularly been delayed or not paid at all in recent months.
Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies also attended yesterday’s meeting with Wishart and emerged mildly hopeful that a solution might be found.
“It’s the first time I’ve been involved in administration, even though I’ve been at clubs which have been threatened with it a few times,” said the former Hearts and Kilmarnock boss. “It never really got to this stage.
“So I learned a few things about what can happen. The good news for the players, according to Fraser, is that the administrator who has been appointed, Bryan Jackson, has worked with other football clubs. Fraser has a good working relationship there.
“But he did point out to us that the man is taking on a commitment now to work out a deal with HMRC and others. If not, there is still a danger of liquidation.
“There might not be enough there to run it. But I’m sure there will be other people out there interested in working with the administrator to make sure that doesn’t happen. So we will keep our finger crossed that is the case.”
If Dunfermline formally enter administration, the board of the Scottish Football League will determine what sporting sanction should be applied. Dundee were docked 25 points when they went into administration for a second time in their history three years ago, while Gretna and Livingston were both demoted to the Third Division.