Derby County Takeover Could Lead The Club Into A Better Future
After spending nine months in administration and facing massive uncertainty over their continued existence, the Rams were saved in the summer of 2022. Will the club be able to bounce back and steadily claw their way back up the tiers?
Saving The Rams
Derby County FC completed the sale of their business and assets to Clowes Developments (UK) Ltd for an undisclosed amount in July 2022. The locally-based property development business saved the club from demise. It also moved them out of financial administration, allowing them to move forward on the pitch.
Businessman David Clowes, a lifelong fan of the Rams, not only now owns the club, but also Pride Park, the home ground of Derby County. With financial troubles besieging the club as one Derby County takeover bid after another hit a wall, Clowes initially supplied DCFC with a loan in order so that they could continue.
In purchasing the club outright through his company Clowes Developments, it means that Derby’s interests stay in Derby.
DCFC Move Out Of Administration
The completion of the purchase was swift. Derby satisfied the EFL League’s Regulations and Insolvency Policy requirements, and so the club was moved out of administration. That had further ramifications for the club on the pitch.
Coming out of administration allowed the Rams, to some extent, again sign new players. This was permitted under conditions of a business plan set out by the new owners and accepted by the EFL, to support the club’s financial stability moving foward.
Derby can sign players but are restricted to how much they can spend on transfer fees and player wages. Agents’ fees also fall under the restrictions. But while that does tie their hands to some degree in terms of getting the quality of player that they would want to push up the tiers, at least their immediate future has been secured.
That for a lot of Derby fans, probably felt like one of the biggest victories in the club’s long history.
2002 The Start Of Troubled Times For DCFC
The financial difficulties at Derby County FC had been brewing for a couple of decades. The pressures of money in the modern game caught up with DCFC in 2002. After six years among England’s elite in the Premier League, Derby suffered a crushing relegation at the end of the 2001/02 season.
The Rams, who had shown a decline in output for a couple of seasons, finished second from the bottom in the 2001/02 Premier League campaign. They managed only eight victories in the campaign and it was only five years after moving into their new home at Pride Park.
The Rams had moved into Pride Park for the start of the 1997/98 Premier League season, after having spent more than a century at their former Baseball Ground. That move to the brand spanking new all-seater stadium came at an expense.
Relegation from the Premier League came at an even heavier price as well. The financial benefits of the television rights in the top tier are huge for teams. While relegated teams receive a parachute payment on the move to the Championship, DCFC’s drop saw them reach a point where they had to sell most of their top players.
It proved to be just the start of troubled times ahead for Derby.
Another Derby County Takeover
Derby was sold in 2003 after being put into receivership. They narrowly avoided relegation from the Championship in the 2003/04 season. They clung on to their status, but then had a huge rebound which came totally out of the blue.
The following season the Rams were in the thick of the promotion playoff spots after finishing fourth. They couldn’t regain a spot in the Premier League, however. Had they done, it may have turned their fortunes completely around.
Instead, Derby dropped back into a Championship relegation fight the following season. Ahead of the 2006/07 season, yet another Derby Country takeover happened. With some of the dire financial pressures lifted from their shoulders, Derby, under manager Billy Davies, made a return to the Premier League.
That joy for Rams supporters was short-lived. Despite being in a better financial position, security was reliant upon Premier League survival. It didn’t happen.
In their first season back in the top flight, Derby were relegated as early as March. They ended the season with just one victory and the lowest ever tally of points collected by a Premier League side.
Revisiting Derby’s Worst Ever Premier League Season 2007/08
- The Rams were relegated after just 32 (of 38) matches with a W1 D8 L29 record
- It is the earliest ever relegation from the Premier League (March 29th)
- Derby’s 29 defeats that season is an EPL record
- The Rams earned just 11 points in the entire season
- Derby’s only win came against Newcastle
- Just 20 goals were scored by Derby in the 2007/08 Premier League
- Derby’s goal difference was -69
Spending Dominates Derby County News
Local businessman Mel Morris claimed the ownership of Derby in 2015, as the club once again changed hands. It was supposed to be a new era of positivity around Pride Park. It very nearly was. Morris threw millions at the project, happily breaking club transfer records.
Derby’s transfer spending went through the roof, as they pushed and pushed for top-flight status. That was the gamble. The payoff would have been another huge cash windfall for promotion. It would have been a return on the investment by Morris. But promotion to the Premier League just wouldn’t come despite the Rams reaching the Championship playoffs three times in six seasons.
Then the bubble burst. By the close of the 2021 Championship season, Derby only just managed to avoid relegation under manager Wayne Rooney. Earlier in the season, Morris had announced that he was looking to sell the club.
More Trouble And Mike Ashley Derby Links Grow
Derby County FC have gone through some trials and tribulations since the turn of the new millennium. A new Derby takeover by foreign investors fell through in March 2021. The Rams had bigger problems behind the scenes. The EFL were on their back for alleged breaches of financial fair play regulations. Derby were hit with a transfer ban.
The club was back in administration early into the 2021/22 Championship season. Derby were slapped with a 12-point deduction for being in that position. Worse was to come. They were given a further 9-point deduction.
Come January 2022 and the Derby County news signalled that the club was teetering towards liquidation and closing its gates. Just before that, there had been a busy period where several bids for the club were being considered. Former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley seemed to be interested in throwing his hat into the ring too.
The club had to prove to the EFL that they could financially survive until the end of the season. They found a way, but still needed a buyer. Despite heavy links to a potential Mike Ashley Derby future ahead, it was a bid by Chris Kirchner that looked to be the one that was going to save Derby in 2022.
But the American investor pulled out of the deal in June. It left the club in limbo. Team manager Wayne Rooney quit the club as Derby were relegated to League One. But rescue was around the corner as Clowes announced that he would bid.
Derby County Takeover A Small Step Forward?
The third tier of English football is, of course, not where the Rams want to be. Their relegation to playing League One fixtures is the first time that the club have been on that step of the ladder since 1986. But at least they are still on that ladder.
Now Derby are in new hands once again with property developer David Clowes at the helm. The EFL are happy with the club’s status and finally at last, after two decades of turmoil and broken hopes, Derby have some solid footing back in the game.
But they have a long way to go to get back to the top tier and to rediscover some of their former glory.
The early ’70s were the club’s golden years, as Derby won the old First Division title in 1972 and in 1975. The Rams are also former FA Cup winners as well, landing the famous silverware at Wembley in 1946.
The Derbyshire club, which was founded in 1884 had a big run in the 1972/73 European Cup as well, the former version of the Champions League. The Rams reached the final four under manager Brian Clough, where they lost to Italy’s Serie A giants Juventus.
New Hope For DCFC
DCFC still have a mountain in front of them. When the Derby takeover by Clowes was confirmed, the club was heading into the 2022/23 League One season with just five registered first-team players.
The new owners do still have debts at Derby to work through because of loans, fees and unpaid taxes owed to the HMRC. But after a long nine months of the administration and edging closer and closer to being wound-up, Derby fans started the return to Pride Park with a sense of relief, a sense of new hope.
Clowes wrote a grounding open letter to Derby fans following the completion of the purchase, stating “I won’t be making any extravagant promises. However, I can confirm my intentions. My focus now is to stabilise the football club in every department and to make sure we have the foundations in place for success, however long that takes.”