Sheffield Wednesday's hopes of avoiding administration next week rest with three unnamed bidders who are yet to prove they have the funds to buy the club. Howard Wilkinson, the club's chairman, clings to the hope of "serious options open to us and the bank". But Digger can reveal that none has put any finance options on the table.
The Owls owe Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs almost £900,000 in unpaid employee taxes and VAT and face a high court petition to wind up the club next Wednesday.
Even more pertinent, though perhaps not as pressing, are the debts of around £23m to the Co-operative Bank, whose patience with the loss‑making, 143‑year‑old club is not inexhaustible.
The Co-op is realistic enough to know it will have to take a large hit on its £23m investment in Wednesday. It is said that, even if the bank's best ambitions are realised, it will be nursing a deficit of more than £11m.
That suggests the Co-op has not taken a wilfully destructive stance towards the double cup finalists of 1993. Wednesday's problem lies elsewhere and it is that serious discussions held with more than a dozen previous bidders all led nowhere.
Most recent was the Certified Oilfield Rentals group, led by Kevin Mundie, whose bid was far enough down the track for the Co-op to have made a payment on a then £1m tax bill in September, warding off the threat of administration .
Until now. At that time Wednesday were top of League One. Since then they have plummeted to 10th.
Mundie told Digger yesterday that COR had withdrawn from the process for good "for business reasons". He stresses it was not what he discovered in his legal and accounting inquiries during due diligence that put him and his firm off.
That is perhaps an encouraging insight. But there are less than seven days for Wilkinson's "options" to become reality and, as time fast runs out on one of football's oldest clubs, the other mystery bidders will find many reasons of their own to walk away; Wednesday fans must hope that instead they find steel within them.
Fifa executive chastened for passing notes in classOnly three weeks before deciding who will host the 2018 World Cup Fifa's executive committee has been forced to play down another controversy. At a meeting in Zurich on 29 October Spain's Angel María Villar Llona passed a note to the Qatari member, Mohamed Bin Hammam, saying "Congratulations" and "Vamos a ganar", meaning "we are going to win".
The development came amid allegations – the subject of an inquiry by the Fifa ethics committee – of collusion between the Spanish and Qatari bids, who are accused of creating a vote‑sharing bloc that will ensure support for the Spanish 2018 bid and the Qatari 2022 bid in tandem.
Some believe Villar Llona was crowing about having the 2018 and 2022 decisions sewn up but, as one Fifa member told Digger yesterday, that is highly unlikely since the note was so public. "[Bin Hammam] had just been talking for about five minutes about the allegations and it seems [Villar Llona's] congratulations referred to what he had been saying at the time," he said. "It was a big piece of paper and he wrote it in big letters: it was not a secret. I believe several [Fifa] members and staff saw it."
But Fifa does not help itself: if there was even a modicum of transparency about its voting processes, then perhaps people would not assume the worst.
NESV steers clear of tribal faux pas with headhunter New England Sports Ventures' admiration for Arsenal truly knows no bounds. The new Liverpool owners have appointed Spencer Stuart to lead the recruitment process for a new chief executive, which the Anfield club has lacked since NESV's takeover last month. The headhunter has run a succession of Arsenal's senior appointments, including that of the chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, and the new communications director, Mark Gonnella. But the company is not a sports specialist – unlike Nolan Partners, whose chief executive, Paul Nolan, is even a Liverpool native.
But maybe NESV has already got the hang of local tribalism: the appointment of an Everton fan to lead the search would perhaps have been controversial.
Gazidis shows his softer side by sleeping roughIf the new Liverpool chief executive is truly to emulate Gazidis he (or she) will have to go beyond the normal call of duty. Gazidis will join 10 other members of Arsenal staff in sleeping rough tonight to raise awareness, and money, for Centrepoint, the homelessness aid organisation that is the Gunners' charity of the season.