Aston Villa Football Club has suspended its chief executive just days after losing the match badged as the most lucrative in world football, as it faces the potential threat of a winding-up order over a multimillion pound tax bill.
Sky News has learnt that Villa, which last month lost the Championship play-off final against Fulham, has been given a brief extension by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to make the payment.
One source said the bill was due to be paid last week, and that the grace period to make the payment could be as short as a week.
If HMRC did serve a winding-up order against Villa, it could threaten the existence of one of the founder members of the English Football League in 1888.
However, a source close to the club insisted on Tuesday that its board was “confident of making a substantial tax payment within days”.
On Tuesday, Villa suspended Keith Wyness, its chief executive since 2016, amid what sources described as efforts by him to find new funding to see the club through its current funding crisis.
Villa’s financial travails since missing out on promotion to the Premier League are well-documented, with John Terry, the former Chelsea and England central defender, leaving the club shortly after the defeat.
Tony Xia, a Chinese businessman, bought Villa from Randy Lerner in 2016 but is reported to have held talks with potential buyers in recent days.
In a statement issued in response to an enquiry from Sky News, a spokesman said:
“Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that Chief Executive, Keith Wyness, has been suspended by the club with immediate effect.
“Owner and Chairman, Dr Tony Xia will assume the role until further notice.
“There will be no further comment from the club at this time.”
There is no suggestion that Mr Wyness has been accused of any wrongdoing.
One source suggested that he had been suspended after informing Mr Xia that the club would have to file for administration if it could not meet its tax obligations.
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Mr Wyness could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
An HMRC spokesman said it did not comment on identifiable individuals or businesses.