Administration looms at Leeds as bad results put off rescuers

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The Independent Online

The future of Leeds United has been put in jeopardy by the heavily indebted club's failure to secure a buyer, less than 10 days before a crucial deadline.

Bondholders, who control Leeds' £81m debt pile, have made a standstill agreement until 19 January, by which it was hoped a bidder would have come forward. A number of parties are understood to be interested, including consortia led by Leeds' former director Allan Leighton, former chairman Professor John McKenzie and the Bahraini Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak al-Khalifa.

But rumours that retail tycoon Philip Green is to make a bid have been rubbished, and none of the four consortia said to be ready to bid for Leeds have put any form of offer on the table.

A dismal performance by Leeds over Christmas has left the club with 17 points, one place away from the bottom of the Premier League table and in the relegation zone. Said one source close to the talks: "You don't know what you are getting here - is this a Premiership club or a Nationwide League club?" Leeds will lose around £20m in revenues should it be relegated.

It is understood that chief executive Trevor Birch, an insolvency specialist who recently joined from Chelsea, wants to extend the standstill agreement.

However, an insider at the club believes the bondholders will be reluctant to extend the deadline without receiving an injection of cash. The alternative would be for the club to go into administration.

Yet should that happen, Leeds could face having points deducted, meaning relegation would be inevitable. It is understood that a meeting of chairmen of Premiership clubs at the end of this month will once again discuss introducing some form of sporting penalty, such as docking points, for clubs that get into the financial difficulties.

Leeds has sold a raft of players to tackle its debt pile and cut its crippling wage bill. It does still have players it could sell in the transfer window. These include the well-regarded strikers Alan Smith and Mark Viduka and goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

However, the Leeds insider said: "Trevor Birch has made it clear that if a player was determined to go, then maybe, but he views it as uneconomical. You sell Smith, you go down, you lose £20m."