SPL clubs call crisis talks as Gretna face closure today

THE Scottish Premier League has called an emergency board meeting for this morning amid genuine fears that Gretna will close down today.

Despite having made 22 players and several members of the backroom staff redundant last week, the club is continuing to accrue losses, and it is thought that administrator David Elliot of Wilson Field, the Sheffield-based insolvency practitioner, now believes time has run out.

The Scotsman understands he has set a 12pm deadline for the SPL to support an immediate takeover deal with an unnamed interested party, but last night even that last-gasp proposal appeared to be on the brink of collapse.

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Gretna, whose relegation was confirmed with Saturday's 2-0 defeat away to St Mirren, have two home games to play before the split, but the prohibitive cost of renting Livingston's Almondvale Stadium to stage this Saturday's fixture against Inverness Caledonian Thistle may well have convinced Elliot that enough is enough. A date for the rearranged game against St Mirren, their only other fixture before the split, has still to be announced, but there are now serious doubts about whether either match will take place.

Iain Blair, secretary of the SPL, said last night: "We are in an intensive care situation with Gretna and we are in constant communication with the administrator in an attempt to solve the situation as best as we possibly can."

Following several days of detailed negotiations, there is understood to be one interested party willing to take over control of Gretna immediately and run the club until the end of the season. However, a deal is unlikely to be done without the full support of the SPL, which has asked for a detailed plan of the proposal in writing.

The club's future was plunged into doubt when the managing director Brooks Mileson was diagnosed with a brain illness last month and his funding subsequently dried up. The club went into administration on 10 March and were deducted ten points.

The SPL is already paying cash advancements of Gretna's prize money due to them at the end of the season, which it was hoped would allow wages to be paid. To keep them going at least until the split, the SPL board may now have to consider also advancing a portion of the 250,000 parachute payment Gretna would be entitled to when formally relegated to the Scottish Football League.

Should Gretna go out of business today, the SPL would be left with the unenviable task of deciding how to reallocate points for matches yet to take place. It has already been suggested the SPL would consider declaring all their results this season null and void.

This would have serious implications for the current table, with Hearts and Dundee United the two teams who would benefit most by virtue of having dropped points to Gretna early in the season.