Macclesfield Town have been wound up in court over unpaid debts of over £500,000 after a judge told Amar Alkadhi he had little faith in the club’s controversial owner being able to pay off creditors.
Barely a month after Macclesfield lost their Football League status after losing an appeal against a points deduction, Judge Sebastian Prentis granted a winding-up order during a hearing in the Insolvency and Companies Court on Wednesday morning after being told the club owed £190,000 in tax.
The court also heard via a virtual hearing through Skype that John Askey, the former Macclesfield manager now in charge of Port Vale, was owed £173,000. A similar sum was owed to another former manager, Sol Campbell, who kept Macclesfield in League Two on the final day of the 2018/19 campaign.
The money owed to Askey is understood to relate to a promotion bonus for leading Macclesfield back to the Football League at the end of the 2017-18 season. Telegraph Sport understands that only £27,000 of that bonus has been paid to date.
The National League were on Wednesday night holding a crisis meeting to discuss Macclesfield’s fate. The Cheshire club are due to kick off their season at home to Bromley on Oct. 3.
Although Macclesfield’s financial problems have been exacerbated in recent months by the Covid-19 crisis, their woes under Alkadhi’s maligned ownership pre-date the outbreak of the pandemic. The winding-up petition by HMRC, which was adjourned for a 12th time last week, began in January 2019. Judge Prentis said “nothing gives me comfort that the club can pay its debts in a reasonable period” and said Alkadhi had been given “ample opportunity” to pay off creditors.
Jon Smart, of the Silkman Supporters’ Trust, said: “It is a very sad day for Macclesfield Town but, given the way Alkadhi has run the club, also an inevitable day. There’s no one else to blame.
“He’s tried to kick the can as far as he can down the road and the judge has said, ‘No, I’ve had enough of you now, you’re not making any progress so let’s call it a day’.”
Alkadhi failed to respond when contacted by Telegraph Sport on Wednesday to discuss the situation and as of Wednesday night the club had yet to make an official comment.
Rob Turner, an insolvency specialist at the independent law firm, Brabners, who acted on behalf of the consortium that bought Bolton Wanderers last year, said Alkadhi would have five business days to apply to rescind the winding up order. “The court will only rescind the order if it can be shown that the circumstances of the case are materially different than what was put before the court at the earlier hearing,” Turner said. “Normally, the court will only rescind the winding up order if there is clear evidence that the company can pay all of its creditors in full.”
Smart said he had already held talks with Mike Rance and Andy Scott, a former Macclesfield chairman and vice-chairman respectively, about the prospect of starting a phoenix club.
Last year, Bury were expelled from the EFL and a phoenix club, Bury AFC, was subsequently founded and is now competing in the North West Counties League Division One North. The news about Macclesfield comes only months after Wigan Athletic were put into administration and is the latest sorry tale of woe involving a professional club in the North West region.
Joe Sealey, the son of former Manchester United goalkeeper, Les, who had previously held talks with Alkadhi about buying the club, told Telegraph Sport he was monitoring developments but that a lot of questions still needed answering.
“I don’t think there’s any other way forward,” said Smart.
Scott added: “It’s hurting like mad but we all knew it was going to happen. You only need to look at Amar’s track record over the past 12 or 18 months and it was obvious one day it was going to happen. The people who genuinely care about the club like myself, Jon Smart, Mike Ranse, Nick Bianchi, we’ll all get together, dust ourselves down and if it means starting in the North West Counties, we’ll rise together as a phoenix club.
“It may take us 10 years to get back where we want to be but we’ll do it with people who love the club. We can start a rebuilding process for future generations of Macclesfield fans.”
It has been a tumultuous past year for Macclesfield on and off the pitch. Players went on strike in November over unpaid wages and the club were deducted points on three separate occasions for issues relating to payment of salaries and the failure to fulfil League Two fixtures against Plymouth and Crewe.
Alkadhi stepped down as chairman last month, just before the EFL won an appeal against what they regarded as a lenient points deduction, which led to Macclesfield being relegated to the National League and Stevenage being granted a reprieve.
The court was told on Wednesday that Alkadhi had understood the amount due to creditors to be just £4,000, had made a late offer to pay an initial £20,000 of the debt to HMRC and had made available a screenshot of a bank statement with £1.1m of funds to show that creditors could be paid.
Judge Prentis said he had not been told by Alkadhi where the £1.1m had come from or why outstanding debts had not already been paid. Alkadhi had previously claimed that a sale of the club to Robert Benwall was at an advanced stage but Benwell was not mentioned in court on Wednesday by Alkadhi’s lawyer, who asked for a further eights weeks to allow a sale to go through.