Lawrence Graham throws lifeline to the Dons

Lawrence Graham may have saved Wimbledon Football Club from certain death after fighting off another charge from the Inland Revenue in the Court of Appeal.

The case surrounds Wimbledon FC’s descent into administration on 5 June last year, and the Inland Revenue’s claims that the creditors’ voluntary arrangement (CVA) was unfair.

The Lord Chief Justice threw out the Inland Revenue’s appeal on 18 May. At this stage it is not clear if the Inland Revenue will take the case to the Lords; however, further delays in resolving the dispute could mean Wimbledon FC sinks into liquidation and is thrown out of the Football League.

Wimbledon FC has found a buyer, in the guise of music producer Pete Winkleman. It is hoped that the assets will be sold to the Winkleman-owned MK Dons Ltd, which in turn will be acquired by InterMK, which is also owned by the music impresario.

Under Football League rules, “football creditors”, ie players or other football clubs, must be paid before a sale goes through and membership of the league is transferred to a new owner.

However, the Inland Revenue disputed football creditors’ ranking over its ‘preferential creditor’ status, after it emerged it would only recover 30p in the pound compared with, for example, players being paid in full.

Because of the deep financial straits Wimbledon FC is in, it has since emerged that the administrator Grant Thornton has agreed to forgo £300,000 in fees to pay a sum to the Inland Revenue.

If the CVA does not go through and the club is pushed into liquidation, creditors will end up with nothing. John Verrill, head of the banking and corporate recovery team at Lawrence Graham, led on the deal.

The firm instructed Stephen Davies QC from Bristol’s Guildhall Chambers, while the Inland Revenue instructed Guy Newey QC of Maitland Chambers.

Chris Robinson, of Fennemores Solicitors in Milton Keynes, is acting for InterMK.