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Football fans are promised answers by official receiver investigating Northwich Victoria's failed administration
MORE than two months into an investigation, a man tasked with discovering why Vics’ administration failed has assured supporters he will get to the truth.
Steve Fearns, appointed as official receiver to Northwich Victoria Football Club (2004) Ltd after it was wound up in December, told the Guardian that progress has so far been slow.
“Our priority, as with all of the cases we come across, is to find out what has happened to the company,” he said.
“To do that we assess the conduct of those involved in running it, as required by law.”
The old Vics company entered administration in May 2009 – the club’s second fall into insolvency in five years – following the team’s relegation from non-league’s top tier, admitting it had ran out of money to pay its bills.
According to a statement of affairs made at the time, its debts totalled some £1.3m.
Creditors owed money by the firm agreed to write off around two thirds of that sum at the end of the same year, entering into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).
The terms were negotiated by Gary Pettit, from Northampton-based insolvency experts Marshman Price, who had been appointed as administrator shortly before.
However the CVA did not take effect until early in 2011, when the Football Association released prize and television appearance money owed to the club as a reward for reaching the FA Cup second round.
That sum, around £170,000, was to form part of an overall dividend, roughly 36p in the pound, to those owed cash.
A further £160,000 – made up of a £10,000 lump figure plus 60 monthly instalments of £2,500 – made up the rest. Creditors have not received a penny.
In February of last year Mr Pettit asked a judge at Manchester County Court to terminate the CVA, citing as a reason the failure of the club to pay any of the monthly contributions.
Vics' owner Jim Rushe’s version of events is different; he says that Mr Pettit ought to have returned to him – once the FA Cup prize money was handed over – a sum he loaned as a director of the company, to keep it in business, during the time it was in administration from May to December.
From that amount, he planned to make initial payments into the CVA.
However Mr Pettit, after claiming Mr Rushe and his fellow directors' obligation to creditors was a separate matter, petitioned to close down the company last Spring.
A winding-up order followed more than six months later, leading to Mr Fearns’ appointment.
He has interviewed Mr Rushe once to date.
“As part of our work we will always want to speak to any directors, in this case Mr Rushe,” he said.
“One of the first things we need to establish is why the supervisor petitioned for the company to be wound up. He is somebody that we have actively pursued for further information.”
Mr Pettit responded on Thursday to a request to contribute to the investigation.
Mr Fearns added: “There is no deadline or time limit to complete our work, although we would aim to finish everything that we need to inside 10 months.
“In short, we get the job done as quickly as we can.”
He added that the FA had helped answer his questions too.
The game’s governing body approved the transfer of Vics’ league membership to a new company, Northwich Victoria Football Club (2007) Ltd, at the same time the CVA took effect.
However last April Mr Rushe, on behalf of the club, admitted a Northern Premier League charge of not complying with the conditions of moving membership from the old company to the new one in early 2011.
The club was punished for that rule break, as well as for failing to honour the terms of its CVA.
Vics were initially expelled from the competition, a sanction reduced to a one-step relegation, from the Premier Division to Division One South, after an appeal.