Court gives Sheffield Wednesday time to clear tax bill
Owls chief executive Nick Parker makes an angry and emotional plea
By Matt Slater
Sheffield Wednesday have been given 28 days by a High Court judge to find new owners and pay off an unpaid tax bill.
The Owls had been facing a winding-up petition from HM Revenue & Customs for £600,000 - a figure HMRC revealed in court had risen to £1.4m.
The judge said the club was trading insolvently and granted the extension because of exceptional circumstances.
Deputy Prime Minister and local MP Nick Clegg has welcomed the development and vowed to help the club's survival bid.
Liberal Democrats leader Clegg told BBC Radio 5 live: "It's great news that the sword didn't come down in the High Court but it's only a stay of execution and I think everyone needs to work really hard and I'm very keen to help.
"I've been in touch with Howard Wilkinson, the chair, and the Co-op Bank," added the Sheffield Hallam MP.
Clegg cautious over Owls future
"I think what everyone is looking for is just a bit more time - a window of opportunity - so that people who've said they want to come forward and provide the cash to help out the club have got the time to do that."
Former Home Secretary and Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough David Blunkett has also put his political weight behind Wednesday's cause.
"It is vital that those with a genuine interest in investing in the club should come to terms for taking over Sheffield Wednesday FC as quickly as possible," said Owls fan Blunkett.
Wednesday had been hoping to strike a deal with one of four potential new owners on Tuesday but time ran out.
It is unlikely that any further adjournments following this will be granted, so takeover negotiations must proceed with a renewed sense of purpose, not least because HMRC stated in court that because of interest, VAT and fines its £600,000 demand had more than doubled.
A visibly emotional Nick Parker, chief executive of Wednesday, urged investors to come forward and end the club's £27m debt crisis.
"I am very relieved but more importantly I am very, very angry," he said outside the High Court in London.
Since then it has maintained a firm line that it wants to help the club but is unwilling to bankroll it any longer.
Wednesday's hearing related to a winding-up petition over an unpaid £600,000 Pay As You Earn (Paye) bill, but the registrar heard the club now owes HMRC £1.4m.
So far, Mandaric is the only bidder to show the proof of funds Co-op wants to see, but he was unable to strike a deal with former Wednesday chairman Dave Allen over the £2.4m he is still owed by the club.
Allen, now the majority shareholder at nearby League Two side Chesterfield, said he is willing to accept £1.5m in staged payments but was made a "derisory offer" by the Leicester chairman and former Portsmouth owner.
Fearn and Roddison's "Wednesday Forward" group is believed to be proposing an immediate injection of cash with more to come as the Owls climb back up the league ladder to the level their fan base and history demands. Wright's plan is believed to follow a similar line.
But if no agreement can be reached in the coming days, administration remains a very real option.
That would make the immediate threat of liquidation go away and provide some short-term stability, but it would also trigger an automatic 10-point penalty from the Football League, with the prospect of further sanctions to come.
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