Derby County: Some contracted players seek legal advice about future once club is sold

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
General view of Derby's dugout at Pride Park
Financially-stricken Derby County were relegated to League One last season

At least two of Derby's seven senior contracted players are taking legal advice over an employment law that could allow them to rip up their contracts when the sale of the club goes through.

The club's administrators are trying to find new buyers following Chris Kirchner's withdrawal from the process last week.

With former owner Mel Morris retaining ownership of the Rams' Pride Park stadium, Derby's most significant asset is their playing squad.

However, with manager Wayne Rooney unable to offer contracts to players without English Football League approval whilst the club remains in administration, there are unlikely to be many senior players around for the start of pre-season training on Monday.

Just five first-team players - Krystian Bielik, Max Bird, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Jack Stretton - have contracts for next season, while two other players have options on existing deals with the club.

And even those that are present might not be around for long.

If Derby survive it will be in the form of a new company since that is the only way of avoiding paying full liability to non-football creditors.

Under employment law, when the business is sold to the new company the position will be governed by legislation known as the 'Transfer of Undertakings' (Protection of Employment) (TUPE).

Ordinarily under TUPE, employees at the date of the transfer automatically transfer to the new company. But they also have the right to be given information about the transfer ahead of time and a right to object to becoming an employee, which would trigger their contract being terminated at the point where the sale eventually takes place.

This legislation was used by a number of Glasgow Rangers players to quit the Scottish side when they were liquidated in 2012.

Whilst there remains confidence amongst the administrators that Derby will not be liquidated, which in itself would bring the players' contracts to an end, it is understood some of the remaining players are unhappy at the position they have found themselves in and are taking legal advice over their rights.

The EFL release their 2022-23 fixture list on Thursday, with Derby's League One campaign due to begin on 30 July.

After a lengthy delay, Derby have confirmed they will play four pre-season friendlies in July.

They are scheduled to host German club Hertha Berlin on 16 July and Premier League side Leicester City on 23 July at Pride Park. Their pre-season also includes trips to Bradford City on 9 July and and Stevenage 10 days later.

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