JIM Rushe is bullish despite the reality facing Northwich Victoria.

The club’s owner received a letter, twice, this week from the Football Conference that made clear a repeat of a battle fought last summer is likely.

At stake is Vics’ future in the competition, again.

“Can we be punished twice?” he said.

“If the league gets its way and we are kicked out, then that jeopardises the club’s future.”

The Conference cannot apply another ten-points penalty – Vics’ sanction for entering administration last May – so has called on Appendix E in its rules book instead.

It says: ‘…A club will not be eligible for membership of the competition for the following season if it shall have entered into an Insolvency Event during the preceding season and exited such Insolvency Event without paying its creditors (including but not limited to football creditors) in full.’

Vics’ future could depend on a court’s interpretation of those words.

“Nowhere does it say a full payment is 100p in every pound,” added Rushe.

“Before Christmas the tax man, and all of our other non-football creditors, accepted our offer of a 42p dividend [in every pound] but if we are not playing in the Conference then the club is worth less.”

He proposes a new firm, Northwich Victoria Football Club (2007) Ltd, buys the old one and takes on the responsibility of paying off the remaining debts in monthly instalments over a fixed period.

He feels a fall in crowd numbers, plus loss of income through marketing and sponsorship, makes Vics a less enticing proposition if they are relegated to the UniBond League.

He is right.

NVFC (2007) would not be able to keep up with monthly repayments to creditors or make its contribution to the mortgage on the land if the team played at a lower level in the non-league pyramid.

The Conference will not change its mind – or its rules – unless told to do so by a higher authority.

That said, even the Football Association backing Vics’ appeal against expulsion – again using Appendix E – last summer was not spur enough.

In March Conference spokesman Colin Peake admitted as much on BBC London’s Non-League Show.

He said: “The current Appendix E has been in place for four years. There is no change this year.

“Clubs know that by the second Saturday in May they have to pay their creditors in full. That’s the story.”

Which is why Rushe, in tandem with administrator Gary Pettit, is considering whether to ask a judge instead this time around.

Pettit said this week: “The disagreement is over a legal point.

“The Football Conference takes the view that to be eligible for membership for the following season a club has to demonstrate that all creditors have been paid in full.

“A CVA is a legally binding contract that allows the parties to compromise on how much of a debt will be paid. Creditors are still paid in full.

“It seems that is not the Conference’s interpretation of its rules.”

Ironically it is success on the pitch that has led to the latest preparations for battle.

Andy Preece guided Vics to the second round of the FA Cup in November, a run which included two ties broadcast live on terrestrial television.

Prize money from winning four matches, plus fees for appearing on ITV, totals close to £200,000.

It proved a deal-maker the tax man too, but the cash remains in an FA account until the CVA is ratified.

“We have been liaising with the administrator at Northwich Victoria and continue to do so,” said spokesman Mark Hooper.

Without Wayne Riley’s winner against Charlton Athletic, plus ITV’s appetite for a repeat when Lincoln City came to town in the next round, Vics might have followed Farsley Celtic out of the league.

Pettit also revealed the company that pays the players’ wages, Northwich Victoria Football Club (2004) Ltd, will exit administration before the weekend.

He said: “The sale agreement remains in place subject to the club’s membership of the Football Association being transferred successfully.

“We’ve had to spend the past few months making sure our plans comply with various football and financial regulations.

“That includes a tenancy for where the team plays, a business plan to prove the club can be sustainable and a cash flow forecast up until the end of next season.

“The FA is just looking for comfort to make sure we’re not talking about Northwich Victoria again in the same terms 18 months down the line.

“I think that’s fair enough.”

Meanwhile Vics and their stadium remain separate.

Perhaps uncertainty would be eased should Northwich Victoria Developments – set up by Rushe in March last year – complete a deal to buy the club’s ground.

Deloitte Touche, fixed charge receivers over the Victoria Stadium, told the Guardian this week that they remain in talks with him.

They, along with the stadium’s principal creditor Yorkshire Bank – to which some £1.3m is owed – made it clear they are not in the business of closing down football clubs.

Their preferred option is a deal with Vics’ owner.

However Deloitte can not sanction a sale until it is sure the football club, which would in the short term at least be the main money-maker at the nine-acres site, is a going concern again and a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) has been signed off by both the Football Association and the Football Conference.

“At present we are unable to provide a timescale for the completion of the [ground] purchase,” said a spokesman.

“However there has been no deadline set by the bank for their money to be recovered.”

That leaves all parties at a stand off until Vics’ on-field future is known.