Gretna could face extinction as early as lunchtime today – and disappear immediately from Scottish football – unless their administrators, formally appointed yesterday, raise £30,000 emergency funding by midday.
"We need £30,000 to enable the club to fulfil its fixture on Saturday against Aberdeen," said David Elliot of Wilson Field, a Sheffield-based firm of insolvency practitioners.
"That is emergency funding for wages and overnight stay and transport. Unless Gretna get £30,000 by lunchtime [today], the club is finished."
Gretna enjoyed a meteoric rise to join the Scottish Premier League this season after three successive promotions. They have been funded entirely by owner-benefactor, Brooks Mileson, 60, who has had sole authority for all financial matters.
This season has been poor on the pitch, with Gretna bottom of the SPL and, after a 10-point deduction for entering administration, with only six points and guaranteed to be relegated, if they survive at all.
Mileson's contracting of a brain infection – the latest in a string of life-threatening illnesses – triggered the current crisis. All funding has been cut, the club's debts are around £4m, the players have not been paid for a week, and there is no certainty of any future finance.
"Gretna is a loss-making club that has survived only because of its benefactor," said Elliot, who said Gretna are effectively up for sale, if they still exist this evening.
Pressed on the need for £30,000, he said: "If people cannot be paid then – and this is emotive – I'll have to stop [trying to save the club] ... This is critical. It's not a bluff."
Gretna's directors passed a resolution at a board meeting last Friday to place the club into administration. It was anticipated that Gretna would survive until at least the end of the season, with help from an advance on SPL television money, due at the end of the season.
But Elliot revealed the club had already had, and spent, "a considerable amount" of advanced funds, and that a further £100,000 was available only if Gretna can guarantee they can last the season.
Given that each "home" match at Fir Park, where they share with Motherwell, costs £22,000, and that wages are around £20,000-£30,000 per week, that seems unlikely. Mass redundancies are expected.
Elliot said talks were being held with an unidentified party to secure the £30,000 emergency funding but there were no guarantees this will be secured.
Elliot added: "The club is under immense pressure from creditors. The main creditor is the Inland Revenue who are owed £350,000 by the club and it was their intention to take that debt into court on Monday [of this week]."
According to Elliot, the Inland Revenue was ready to issue a winding-up petition or a provisional liquidation order. Among others owed money are two former managers, one claiming £800,000 and another £100,000. Hire-purchase payments on cars are outstanding, and Elliot anticipates further claims.
If Gretna go out of business, it is likely to have a huge impact further up the league. It seems highly probable that all points won against them this season would be taken from the SPL's 11 other clubs. This would almost certainly impact on the chase for European places next season.
Fourth-placed Dundee United have taken only three points from three games against Gretna, while Motherwell, in third, have taken nine. The SPL has yet to confirm what action will be taken if Gretna go bust.