Derby have been cleared to sign new players for the upcoming Championship season after the EFL altered its rules due to “exceptional circumstances” caused by the club’s coronavirus outbreak last season.
Derby are under an EFL transfer embargo but would ordinarily be able to sign free agents on 12-month contracts or make six-month loan signings if they have less than 23 players of a ‘professional standing’.
Rams boss Wayne Rooney currently only has nine registered senior players, two of whom are goalkeepers.
However, with the definition of professional standing being that a player has made a single first-team appearance outside of the EFL Trophy, there was confusion as to where Derby stood, with a team of academy players having been fielded in last season’s FA Cup third-round tie at Chorley after a coronavirus outbreak ruled out Rooney’s entire first-team squad.
An EFL statement said: “Further to a request from Derby County, the EFL board has now considered the circumstances regarding appearances made by a number of academy players in the FA Cup tie against Chorley earlier this year.
“Upon review, the board has determined that the appearance in that fixture by those players will not be considered as part of any assessment of whether they are players of ‘professional standing’ in line with the League’s embargo policy, due to the exceptional circumstances that applied at the time of the fixture.
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Derby are under the transfer embargo due to failing to submit audited accounts for 2016, 2017 and 2018, with the club facing an August 18 deadline to resubmit the documents.
The club narrowly avoided relegation on the final day of the Championship season, and then once more when the EFL decided not to appeal against a decision to only issue a fine rather than enforce a points deduction.
In addition to the transfer embargo, wage restrictions have also been applied to Derby, which the club failed in an appeal to have lifted.
The EFL statement added: “The board rejected a further request to relax an enhanced embargo that remains in place in respect of other regulation breaches. The club will therefore continue to be under wage restrictions on player recruitment and limited to a squad size up to 23 players of ‘professional standing’.”
Derby have less than three weeks until their Championship season-opener against Huddersfield Town on August 7, before which Rooney will now undoubtedly look to strengthen his squad.
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