The onus has been put on HMRC to save the Rams but taxpayers shouldn’t have to suffer. Leave greedy owners to their fourth circle of hell, writes Laura Lawrence.
I’m going to make an unprecedented statement – I feel sorry for HMRC. This statement is coming from someone who thinks their automated phone system is actually what Dante was describing as the fourth circle of hell in his epic poem, Inferno.
So why am I feeling sympathy for the taxman? It’s been reported that Derby face liquidation if HMRC won’t slash the amount they’re owed from £26 million to £7.5m. This is the view of the prospective buyers – the ones who would be banging rocks together for all eternity for their avarice and greed if this really was the fourth circle of hell.
The onus has been put on HMRC to save Derby. What happens if they don’t agree to reduce the money they’re legitimately owed, the money the government is owed? Do they become the reason a historic football club folds, while the owner Mel Morris puts the club’s biggest fixed asset in his own company’s ledger? What about the £80m stadium he now owns that has devalued the price of Derby?
HMRC are stuck between a rock and a greedy place. They have an obligation to collect taxes to spend on public infrastructure. As supporters and taxpayers, we ought to be angry about this suggestion by the potential buyers.
According to the Daily Mail, “one source close to would-be investors says that a deal to buy Derby only becomes viable when the debt inherited does not vastly outweigh the value of the club which is difficult to determine given their 21-point deduction and likely relegation to League One.”
Sources have also said, in the same article, that the optimism of Derby’s administrators is misplaced and that they are “sleepwalking” into further trouble.
HMRC can’t make an exception for Derby. How can they, after everything that happened with Bolton, Wigan, and Bury? Those clubs currently on the precipice of insurmountable debt might see a 12-point deduction and administration as a realistic option to save themselves.
The suggestion further strengthens the need for an independent regulator to monitor the flow of finances across the leagues.
Derby’s administrators are due to meet with HMRC in a few weeks, in the hope that a solution can be reached in order to save the Rams from purgatory. But it is not the responsibility of HMRC to be lenient.
According to Dante, the fourth circle of hell is supposed to punish both people who hoard possessions in the hopes of material gain and those who spend lavishly. Morris has a lot to answer for, whether he believes his intentions were good or not. The value of Derby is diminished because of his actions – and the taxpayer shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR