Wage deferrals give Leeds time

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The Independent Football

Leeds United's players agreed to a 25 per cent wage deferral yesterday, giving the club breathing space until the end of the season to sort out their dire financial problems.

The Leeds chief executive, Trevor Birch, immediately returned to negotiations with the club's major creditors to rubber-stamp an extension of their "standstill agreement". The current agreement expires at 5pm today, but an extension will now be a formality.

Leeds, with gross debts of more than £100m, needed to find £5m to continue trading unaided until the end of the season. They received £1.5m on Wednesday from Manchester United as the final settlement on Rio Ferdinand's transfer, and agreed deferrals on severance payments to former employees including the managers David O'Leary, Terry Venables and Peter Reid.

A payment of £10,000 per week to the former striker Robbie Fowler, owed as part of his £6m move to Manchester City a year ago, has apparently been put on hold. That left Birch needing the squad to provide a further £2-3m from their wages.

Failure to raise the cash could have seen Leeds enter administration today, but Birch will have more time to find a buyer for Leeds, with a secretive Yorkshire-based consortium insisting they are in pole position. Gerald Krasner, a representative of the group, said they had an "eight-figure sum".

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said: "The players have unanimously agreed to the deferral, which will go a long way to allowing the club to stay in business for the rest of the season."

It would have been churlish to point out that the players' mostly astronomical wages, albeit freely bestowed by a reckless former Leeds administration, were a large factor in causing the current problem. Certainly Birch would never suggest such a thing.

"This request was made as an absolute last resort," he said. "The players' actions demonstrate their commitment and understanding and give Leeds a massive lift as we look towards the rest of the season. There are 16 games left to fight for survival in the Premier League. The board, employees, players and supporters should now pull together to achieve this goal."

If Leeds do go into administration, they will have points deducted after the Premier League chairmen yesterday agreed a nine-point penalty for any club "subject to an insolvency event". The new rule, to dissuade clubs from racking up debts and then using administration to bail themselves out, takes effect from 3 June.

Clubs will have to meet five key criteria, including minimum national financial standards, to play in the Champions' League and Uefa Cup from next season. They must now comply with sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administration, legal and financial standards.