Football clubs that are footloose and fancy-free with their finances know that the threat of administration looms large. So it’s up to them to do what they can to balance the books. The goal of administration isn’t to punish the fans but to ensure that glory-coveting owners spend their money wisely.
Taking on debt in football isn’t something new but it comes at a risk and if those debts grow too large then sanctions must be put in place. Administration can feel like the death nail for a club when they enter it but history has shown that this isn’t always the case. Let’s look at what entering administration means for English football clubs.
Why Do Football Clubs Go Into Administration?
Going into administration in footballing terms is when a club is no longer capable of paying off its existing debts. Clubs can choose to enter administration at this stage, where they can be shown to be insolvent by a court. This, in effect, declares a club bankrupt.
In declaring bankruptcy, the club formally recognises its inability to pay off its debts which may force a sale or the club could stop operating completely.
What Happens if a Club Goes Into Administration?
A club entering administration must try to pay off its debts. Accountants are placed in positions of power in the club, gaining control of everything except picking the team and coaching players. Football-related debts like player and staff wages and outstanding transfer fees must be paid off first.
Teams entering administration are typically docked points depending on which league they are in. The teams can face point deductions during the season they enter administration or the following season depending on whether they are relegated or not.
If a team is relegated when entering administration the point deductions are dished out the following season, if they stay up they are hit with the deduction. This same-season points deduction may still ultimately relegate a team.
Biggest Clubs to Go Into Administration
Although bigger teams have more income, they are not immune from going into administration. In England, some of the biggest teams to enter administration include Leeds United, Crystal Palace, Portsmouth, Wigan Athletic and Derby County.
Other big name football league teams entering administration include Bournemouth, Southampton, Leicester City and Bolton Wanderers. Outside of England, big teams like Rangers have had off-field financial struggles, while Barcelona faced major problems in 2021 due to La Liga’s financial restrictions.
Football Clubs in Administration [YEAR-BY-YEAR]
|Team||Entered Administration||Exited Administration (Date or Date Dissolved)|
|Charlton Athletic||February 1984||March 1984|
|Middlesbrough||21 May 1986||July 1986|
|Newport County||1989||February 1989|
|Millwall||21 January 1997||June 1997|
|Crystal Palace||1998||July 2000|
|Chester City||October 1998||July 1999|
|Hull City||7 February 2001||12 March 2001|
|Queens Park Rangers||2 April 2001||17 November 2002|
|Bury||1 March 2002||−|
|Halifax Town||9 April 2002||March 2003|
|Bradford City||16 May 2002||1 August 2002|
|Notts County||June 2002||December 2003|
|Barnsley||3 October 2002||25 October 2003|
|Leicester City||21 October 2002||16 November 2004|
|Port Vale||16 December 2002||2003|
|York City||18 December 2002||26 March 2003|
|Derby County||20 October 2003||20 October 2003|
|Ipswich Town||10 February 2003||30 May 2003|
|Wimbledon||5 June 2003||21 June 2004 (As MK Dons)|
|Oldham Athletic||August 2003||26 May 2004|
|Darlington||23 December 2003||26 May 2004|
|Bradford City||27 February 2004||10 December 2004|
|Wrexham||3 December 2004||3 August 2006|
|Cambridge United||29 April 2005||22 July 2005|
|Rotherham United||13 May 2006||???|
|Crawley Town||5 June 2006||10 August 2007|
|Boston United||25 April 2007||20 May 2008|
|Leeds United||4 May 2007||11 July 2007|
|Luton Town||22 November 2007||28 July 2008|
|Bournemouth||8 February 2008||18 July 2008|
|Rotherham United||18 March 2008||2008|
|Halifax Town||26 March 2008||13 June 2008|
|Darlington||25 February 2009||7 August 2009|
|Southampton||2 April 2009||8 July 2009|
|Stockport County||30 April 2009||18 June 2010|
|Chester City||17 May 2009||10 March 2010|
|Northwich Victoria||15 May 2009||16 May 2010|
|Farsley Celtic||30 June 2009||10 March 2010|
|Salisbury City||3 September 2009||26 February 2010|
|Weymouth||28 October 2009||27 November 2009|
|Crystal Palace||26 January 2010||20 August 2010|
|Portsmouth||26 February 2010||24 October 2010|
|Plymouth Argyle||4 March 2011||31 October 2011|
|Rushden and Diamonds||7 July 2011||8 July 2011|
|Darlington||3 January 2012||21 June 2012|
|Portsmouth||17 February 2012||19 April 2013|
|Port Vale||9 March 2012||20 November 2012|
|Coventry City||21 March 2013||14 June 2013|
|Aldershot Town||2 May 2013||31 July 2014|
|Bolton Wanderers||13 May 2019||28 August 2019|
|Bury||18 July 2019||CVA terminated on 9 March 2020; new CVA sought.|
|Rhyl||27 April 2020||27 April 2020|
|Wigan Athletic||1 July 2020||30 March 2021|
|Bury||27 November 2020||–|
|Derby County||22 September 2021||–|
What Happens if a Football Club Goes into Liquidation?
Liquidation is the next stage after administration and it’s terminal for football clubs. In essence, a team going into liquidation is bankrupt and is expelled from the league it is playing in as it can no longer honour its fixtures.
There have been several examples of English clubs in financial peril that couldn’t claw their way back to solvency. The most recent example is Bury FC after it was expelled from the EFL in 2019. Other examples of liquidated clubs include Chester City FC, Macclesfield Town FC, Aldershot FC and Maidstone United.