Second-tier English soccer side Aston Villa have suspended their chief executive Keith Wyness amid reports that the club is facing a potential winding-up order over a missed tax payment worth roughly UK£4 million (US$5.3 million).
The Guardian reports that Wyness held crisis talks with the Championship outfit’s owner and chairman Tony Xia on Tuesday. Those talks culminated in Wyness being suspended, however the tax bill was not the central reason for that decision and there is no suggestion that the 60-year-old Scot has been accused of any wrongdoing.
Villa, who lost the promotion-deciding Championship play-off final to Fulham last month, have been given a brief extension by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to make the payment, according to Mark Kleinman of Sky News.
Kleinman added that one source said the multimillion pound tax bill was due to be paid last week, and that the grace period to make the payment could be as short as seven days.
Villa said in an official statement that Xia has assumed Wyness’ responsibilities, and added that they will not comment further.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We do not discuss identifiable taxpayers. We will always do everything we can to support taxpayers facing difficulty paying what they owe.”
If HMRC did serve a winding-up order against Villa, it could threaten the existence of one of English soccer’s oldest clubs. Founding in 1874, the Birmingham-based outfit are one of the founding members of the English Football League (EFL), and have been crowned champions of England on seven occasions.
However, Kleinman said that a source close to the club insisted that they are confident of making the payment within days.
Villa’s financial crisis has reportedly sparked interest from Peter B Freund, a minority shareholder in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) New York Yankees, who is said to be weighing up a UK£75 million (US$100 million) offer to buy the club.
Xia has reportedly been sounding out potential investors for several weeks as a contingency plan in case Villa failed to seal promotion, slapping a UK£100 million valuation on the club.
Villa need to make savings of about UK£40 million next season to meet the EFL’s Financial Fair Play rules and have suffered significant cash-flow problems in recent weeks, which came to the boil with Wyness’ suspension.