DERBY COUNTY have issued a strong rebuttal of claims they are guilty of financial impropriety, and expressed regret at Middlesbrough’s threatened legal action against the EFL.

Despite Boro chairman Steve Gibson’s insistence that Derby’s decision to sell their Pride Park Stadium before leasing it back was a blatant attempt to get around the EFL’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, Derby officials have released a statement insisting the sale was within the rules.

Reports emerged last week suggesting that Middlesbrough were preparing legal action against the EFL for failing to enforce their financial regulations. The club are known to have sent a legal letter to the EFL outlining their position, and it has previously been suggested they are also willing to sue Derby over their conduct.

Gibson has spoken out about loopholes within the EFL’s financial regulations at board meetings of the Football League, with Sheffield Wednesday and Reading also having been accused of failing to adhere to the spirit of the laws.

Derby chairman Mel Morris has never hidden the fact that the club sold their stadium, and yesterday’s publication of a formal statement is a clear attempt to draw a line under the matter and ensure the Rams avoid any retrospective punishment for their actions.

The EFL’s new chief executive, Debbie Jevans, is understood to be assessing the current regulations to ascertain whether they need to be rewritten to explicitly prevent clubs from being able to use the sale of their ground as a means of increasing the amount they can spend without breaching FFP rules.

Derby’s statement, which was published on their own website, said: “Derby County has adhered to the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability Rules with respect to the sale of its stadium.

“The stadium was subject to an independent professional valuation before sale, nearly 18 months ago, and the EFL indicated in writing that the arrangement was in accordance with its rules and regulations.

“The EFL cannot now, long after approving the arrangements, suggest Derby County breached the rules.

“The club regrets that Middlesbrough Football Club have said they are suing the EFL over the matter, but that is a matter for them. Derby County offered to show Middlesbrough its financial records but they declined the invitation and appear to have decided to bring a claim against the EFL instead.

“The outcome of that action could not now affect Derby County, which has already had its financial returns for the relevant season approved by the EFL, and the club is solely focused on the current season. The club will not be making any further comment at this time.”

Middlesbrough have opted not to make a direct response to Derby’s statement, and it remains to be seen whether they continue to pursue their action against the EFL.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Northern Echo earlier this month, Gibson stressed the importance of the FFL regulations as a means of ensuring fairness within the Championship and preventing clubs from getting themselves into serious financial difficulty by incurring unsustainable levels of debt.

Gibson said: “The FFP rules are important for lots of reasons. They prevent clubs getting into trouble, if they’re implemented properly, they should lead to a greater degree of transparency, and they should give every team in the league a chance of competing at their level.”