Marseilles bill for loan players adds to Leeds troubles

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The Independent Football

Leeds United are being threatened with legal action by Marseilles over a £300,000 bill for the loan players Salomon Olembe and Lamine Sakho. The French club sent Leeds a letter this week after they defaulted on the rental payments for Olembe and Sakho, giving them notice to pay or be taken to court.

Marseilles are due the second instalment on the annual loan fee due on the players and have stepped up their efforts to collect the money. The club can also go to Fifa, the world governing body, or the Football Association to ask for the Africans to be returned to them, but they would prefer to have their fees paid.

Olembe and Sakho are currently playing for Cameroon and Senegal respectively in the African Nations Cup, but they are two vital squad members whom the Leeds caretaker manager, Eddie Gray, would like to keep.

Leeds ran into similar problems with regulations when they failed to cancel the contracts of Zouma Camara and Didier Domi, who are halfway through loan spells from Lens and Paris St-Germain respectively.

Marseilles are also consulting lawyers about the option of freezing Leeds' assets, which would come at a bad time for the Yorkshire club as they try to prove to their creditors on Friday that they have enough funds to last the rest of the season.

The Football League, meanwhile, is to close the loophole that might have allowed Leeds to escape a 10-point deduction next season in the event of relegation and administration.

Under Football League rules, any Nationwide League club entering administration after the end of this season will start next season with a 10-point penalty. Under new Premier League rules, any Premiership club entering administration after 3 June will face a penalty.

That situation left a gap in which a Premiership club could enter administration before 3 June - until when they officially retain Premier League status - and avoid a penalty from either body.

The Football League will now amend its rules to state that any club that might play in the Nationwide League next season will face a 10-point deduction if they enter administration after the end of this season.

The upshot for Leeds is that if relegation becomes inevitable and no financial rescue package has been completed, they will need to enter administration this season, earlier than expected. Trevor Birch, Leeds' chief executive and acting chairman, is still hoping they can avoid relegation, find new owners, or both.