Derby County face expulsion from the EFL and possible liquidation at the beginning of February if they can't prove how the club will continue to be funded for the rest of the season.
Wayne Rooney's side have clawed themselves off bottom place to have a fighting chance of beating relegation despite a 21-point deduction.
But unless new owners can be found by March, that effort may have been in vain.
This is everything you need to know about the problems at Pride Park.
What financial problems are Derby in?
The EFL's profit and sustainability rules only allow clubs to incur an accumulative loss of £39m over a three-year period.
Following losses of £14.7m in 2016 and £7.9m in 2017, were set to break that figure with their outgoing costs in 2018 – but then-owner Mel Morris bought their home stadium, Pride Park, for £80m.
The Rams then lost the 2019 Championship Play-Off Final to Aston Villa, leaving them under the EFL's financial rules – whereas promotion to the Premier League would have spared them.
In January 2020, after reviewing the sale of the ground, the EFL charged Derby with financial breaches for the period up to 2018.
They appealed the decision, leading to a protracted case and this season's 21-point deduction.
Derby agreed with the UK Treasury that its accounts for the years since 2018 would not be published until the EFL case has concluded, but it's understood the club has suffered further financial losses.
They are believed to have debts of around £50m and make a further loss of around £1.5m each month.
What is the deadline, and what will happen if Derby don't meet it?
The EFL had initially set a deadline of February 1 for Derby to prove that they can fund themselves for the rest of the season – which in effect means finding a new owner.
If they failed to do that, they would be expelled from the Football League immediately, will not be able to finish the season, and will face liquidation. This will mean Derby ceases to exist as a football club.
February 1 was chosen as the date as Derby's administrators themselves said the club would run out of money at the end of January.
However, with serious offers from potential owners on the table, and legal cases from Middlesbrough and Wycombe causing issues (see below), the EFL has put back that by a month. According to a statement by Derby, the league has granted "a further four weeks to continue the discussions with the interested bidders and relevant stakeholders in respect of a sale, alongside providing additional time to seek clarity on the claims from Middlesbrough and Wycombe."
Is Mel Morris still Derby owner?
No. When Derby went into administration in September 2021, administrators took over the running of the club. All control is handed over.
Who could buy Derby?
There are reportedly three interested parties.
Private investment firm Carlisle Capital made a formal offer to the administrators of Derby on Friday last week, with a fee believed to be in the region of £28m. This bid is raising hopes that the immediate situation will be sorted soon, with the EFL postponing a meeting on Derby's fate this week as the situation progresses.
Less-than-beloved former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is also interested, but is far from the leading candidate.
Ex-Derby chairman Andy Appleby is reportedly behind the other offer.
How many points have Derby been deducted?
Derby have been deducted 21 points in the Championship this season. They were deducted an initial 12 points in September after going into administration, and a further nine points in November after admitting to breaching the EFL's profit and sustainability rules over the sale of Pride Park to Mel Morris.
Why are Middlesbrough and Wycombe threatening Derby with legal action?
Middlesbrough missed out on the play-offs by a single point to Derby in 2018/19, while Wycombe were relegated from the Championship in 2020/21 after finishing a single point behind Derby.
Both clubs are seeking compensation for loss of earnings in relation to Derby’s financial breaches, and the legal implications have made it more difficult for the Rams to find a new owner.
What can football fans do to help Derby?
Over 60,000 people have signed a petition asking the Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston to "look into" Derby's situation, claiming that Middlesbrough and Wycombe should not be able make legal claims against Derby while the club is in administration.
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Conor Pope is the Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content, and joined the team in February 2019. He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.
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