Football League reviews insolvency policy after Wilberforce defeat

The Football League is reviewing its insolvency policy in the wake of Wilberforce Chambers having failed in its bid to claw back 15 points for Leeds United FC.

United was docked the points after it failed to follow the League’s insolvency rules but during the four-day arbitration it came to light that the policy needed to be reviewed.

Leeds had allegedly breached the rules by selling the club to a new company without a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in place with its creditors (TheLawyer.com, 15 April).

In a post script to the yesterday’s arbitration ruling (1 May), the panel stated that the insolvency procedures needed to be overhauled as there were “40 or more current or anticipated insolvencies”.

“The League in the course of the hearing appeared to recognise the need to amend the policy to make specific provisions where there is no CVA,” stated the panel. “It is to be hoped that this can be achieved during the coming close season. The clubs should be entitled to clear guidelines, objectives and procedures.”

The panel, chaired by Sir Philip Otton of 20 Essex Street, put forward its own recommendations of what should be included in the policy review.

It suggested that firstly there should be an appeal to an independent tribunal. The panel added: “In order to reduce uncertainty for the club and other clubs the appeal process should be determined without delay. We suggest an appeal should be lodged within seven days of the decision and the decision of the appeal body should be given within 21 days thereafter.”

David Phillips QC and Nikki Singla, both of Wilberforce Chambers, have been instructed by sole practitioner and Leeds director Mark Taylor for the football club.

Bird & Bird partner Jonathan Taylor will represent the Football League, having instructed lead counsel Stephen Davies of Bristol-based Guildhall Chambers with Adam Lewis of Blackstone Chambers.