Chairman Mel Morris insists Derby County have done ‘nothing wrong’ and are ‘very comfortable’ with their deal to sell Pride Park to a company also under his ownership.
The Rams boss joined talkSPORT on Friday to respond to claims Championship rivals Middlesbrough are threatening to sue the English Football League over the £80million deal made earlier this year.
Boro claim the League failed to enforce its own financial rules when Derby sold Pride Park to a sister company owned by Morris, who now lease it back to the club.
The Rams beat the Teesside outfit to a top six finish by one point last season, and Boro allege the stadium deal which rescued Derby’s finances effectively cost them a place in last season’s play-offs, and the chance of securing Premier League promotion and a potential £180m windfall that goes with it.
Derby have been accused by rivals of exploiting a loophole in EFL rules that allows owners to buy their own stadium to make the club financially compliant.
Morris joined talkSPORT host Jim White to respond to those accusations on Friday, and he insisted everything was done above board and no loopholes were exploited.
And he also sent a message to Boro chairman Steve Gibson, telling the chief to stop moaning about the rules and personally call him if he has a problem.
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The chairman said: “We’ve done nothing wrong. We’re very comfortable with what we’ve done. The valuation, in our opinion, was fair and reasonable.
“We didn’t use a loophole. Let’s be very clear on this, there is no loophole here. The rules are extremely specific on this, that the sale of a fixed asset is allowable. It’s a single sentence. It is allowable.
“The bottom line is we’ve approached this very professionally. It was nearly 18 months ago now when we looked about utilising the stadium for other purposes during the season, that was the genesis of it.”
Asked if the club would have been in breach of Financial Fair Play regulations had they not completed the stadium sale, Morris also insisted there was nothing unusual about the deal.
“You plan your whole finances around the pieces that are moving,” he explained.
“If you sell a player for £50m and you utilise the funds of that to fund the purchase of another year, is it any different? If you sell the stadium of course you’re going to utilise that, which is what we did.”
Morris revealed he invited Gibson to take a look at Derby’s financial records to see for himself that the deal was lawful, but he declined the offer.
He also accused the chairman of double standards, pointing out that Boro would have lost out and Derby benefited if the EFL nullified Bolton’s results when they were placed into administration last season – and the Rams didn’t moan when they weren’t.
“It’s entirely down to Steve what he does,” added Morris. “If he feels he’s got a case than he needs to pursue that, which is fine.
“We offered for Steve to come and take a look at our books, but he declined to take us up on that.
“At the end of the day, it’s in the rules. If the rules are there for a purpose, that’s fine. If you don’t like the rules, change them, but don’t moan.
“When Bolton were going through their troubles, if the rule book had been followed then Bolton would have had their results expunged for the season.
“If it had happened, the biggest beneficiary of the clubs in contention for the top six would have been Derby and the biggest losers would have been Middlesbrough because they beat them in both legs.
“But did we moan? Did we moan to the EFL to say it’s unfair and you should be getting rid of Bolton because we would benefit from it? No!
“What we said was, ‘God bless you for doing that and whatever you need to do to keep these clubs going, I support’.
“Steve is a great owner and deserves a lot of applause for what he’s done with Boro. I don’t know what’s got his goat with this, but he can always pick the phone up and talk to me.”