DUNFERMLINE Athletic have lurched a step closer to extinction after chairman John Yorkston confirmed the club are facing a winding-up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The development potentially gives the 128-year-old football club a little over a week before it will be liquidated, adding further urgency to the frantic talks aimed at saving the club.
The petition by HMRC was lodged with the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday, with Dunfermline’s solicitors informed of the tax authority’s move, regarding unpaid arrears of £134,000, in the afternoon.
Public confirmation of the winding-up order will be formally printed in the Edinburgh Gazette and The Scotsman in the coming days – at which point, Dunfermline have eight days to pay the debt before HMRC have the right to request the start of the liquidation process.
The steering group charged with saving the Pars, led by Jim Leishman, have been meeting throughout this week with a view to reducing Gavin Masterton’s 94 per cent majority shareholding in the club.
It is believed that, if Masterton relinquishes control of Dunfermline, with the club moving towards a fan ownership model, The Pars Community (TPC) have a warchest of around £250,000 which they could invest to ward off the taxman.
However, negotiations have proved challenging and no agreement has yet been struck. Meanwhile, Yorkston insists several avenues are being explored to raise capital. The club’s overall debt, owed to past and present directors, stands at £8.4 million.
Stephen Taylor, the steering group’s financial expert, believes HMRC have become “unsympathetic” with the club following a history of unpaid taxes. “Our compliance record in the past has not been brilliant,” the partner in accountancy firm Carter’s said. “We have been sending in returns late, we have not been paying tax on time and HMRC are not sympathetic.”