GRETNA FC will cease to exist tomorrow after the man who might have supplied the financial muscle for the one remaining bid to save the club confirmed that he had withdrawn his support.
"There is no bid," said football agent Scott Hume of Hume International agency in Glasgow. "The bottom line is that I knew where the money was coming from, because it would have been coming through me, and I can assure you that I am not spending any money. That is it – there is nothing from us."
Hume's statement about the only possible bid for Gretna means that administrators Wilson Field of Sheffield must put the club into liquidation, perhaps as early as tomorrow. All staff and players have already been paid off and the club's Raydale Park is likely to be sold to meet debts reported to be around the 4m mark.
The Scottish Football League will then immediately launch its pre-planned operation to bring a new club into its membership to replace Gretna, who went into administration while still in the Scottish Premier League.
The club which reached the Scottish Cup final two years ago was docked 10 points for going into administration and were relegated out of the SPL. Last week, the club failed to convince Scottish Football League bosses that it could fulfil the requirements for First Division football and Gretna were demoted to the Third Division with Airdrie United and Stranraer being promoted one division each.
With Hume's initial backing, Paul Davies, who works as a consultant with Hume International, had launched an effort to save Gretna after the club went into administration in March. His father Ken was security officer at Gretna, which went bust after illness caused owner Brooks Mileson to withdraw his funding.
But there were questions about Davies' plans and SFL chief executive found "fundamental flaws" in the business plan.
On Thursday night, Davies met the Gretna Action Group of supporters trying to save the club and explained that the demotion to the Third Division had made his plans untenable. Now the backer who might have provided the finance has stated that all chance of a rescue is gone.
"There is no bid from Hume International, or from Paul Davies," said Scott Hume, "and there has never been a formal bid from us. We had discussions with the administrators to the point where we were supplied with financial information and then we withdrew because it wasn't a nice picture.
"There were no guarantees, and one of the major things was to be able to play First Division football and clearly that isn't going to happen.
"I don't know of any consortium bidding, but it is definitely not Hume International or Paul Davies."
Action Group member John Bowdon said: "We had more or less concluded that it was finished when we met Paul Davies. It was like a wake afterwards.
"The demotion to the Third Division finally killed us. The SFL have been very nasty about it all, and I don't think there is even a way for a new Gretna club to come back. I had a season ticket and the last four years have been absolutely brilliant. There will be a big void in our lives now."
Now the race is on to take Gretna's place in the SFL. Three East of Scotland League clubs – Annan Athletic, Preston Athletic and Spartans – are well advanced with their plans to bid for the place. Highland League club Cove Rangers may compete for the SFL place, but Keith, Huntly and Inverurie Locos have ruled themselves out.
Andrew Waddell, secretary of East Lothian-based Preston Athletic, said "On the basis that there is a vacancy we will be making a bid to join the SFL. We have been working closely with the local council on various developments, and the opportunity has come up a lot quicker than we expected, but we are ready.
"As vice-chairman of the East of Scotland League, I am sure that all three bids from our league will be credible."
Derick Rodier, general manager of Edinburgh club Spartans, who many people see as favourites to replace Gretna, said: "We have made preparations in the event that Gretna did go into liquidation, but we will reserve our position until we hear publicly or privately from the SFL."