ST ALBANS CITY has been plunged into turmoil yet again following the breakdown of its second Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA) in as many years.

Majority shareholder Lee Harding had offered creditors a £45,000 lump sum to clear the club's debts, but later withdrew the offer, citing an "unprecedented level of abuse and criticism" from Clarence Park supporters.

The failure of this latest CVA has prompted accountants Berley to issue a winding-up petition against the club, giving directors just weeks to find a buyer before receivers move in.

But with debts estimated to total in excess of £250,000, it is unclear who would be willing, or able, to shoulder such a burden, even though the former chairman has hinted he would sell the club for the £1 it originally cost him.

The winding-up order places the directors under an obligation not to incur any further debts or treat any one creditor differently to another.

But this will make it virtually impossible for the club to continue paying its players without breaching the rules and therefore trading while insolvent - a criminal offence.

And with every passing week the situation grows graver, as any potential buyer will have to meet the wage backlog to ensure the club's continued membership of the Ryman Premier League.

Lee Harding declined to comment on the crisis this week, but marketing manager Chris Richardson insisted all was not lost at Clarence Park and appealed to fans not to turn their backs on City at such a critical time.

"It's important to get the message across that it's not all doom and gloom," he said.

"We feel confident. We've had a number of enquiries about buying the club and Lee Harding is talking to one person this week with regards to buying his shares. We feel sure that something will happen in two or three weeks."

Confirming that the terms of the CVA were broken on October 16, he said: "We need to raise money to save the club but no petition to wind it up has been received yet. These things go on and on. It's got to go to court and all that. We're not in the hands of the receivers yet, we're in voluntary administration."

Mr Richardson stressed that the club did have the funds to foot this week's player bill but stressed that City need all its supporters to turn out for Saturday's game to ensure the club's survival into the new year.

Admitting to past problems between supporters and the chairman, Mr Richardson said: "There's probably been a lack of communication in the past, especially from the chairman.

"But I've walked around the terraces and spoken to decent supporters and they're not interested in who runs the club they just want success on the field."

However Mr Ian Rogers, chairman of the supporters club, questioned Harding's motives for withdrawing from the CVA, saying: "He is using it as a get out to not pay the money he never had in the first place."

Claiming that there wasn't a match between October 9 when the CVA deal was brokered and October 16 when the money was due to be paid, he questioned the abuse and criticism Harding refers to.

He said: "There was no opportunity to suffer anything personal and there was nothing on the website.

"We've had two recent fans' forums where there was criticism but no abuse levelled at Harding.

"I have never seen anybody make abusive remarks on the terracing - it's just another slur on the supporters.

"He's done the club and the city a massive disservice by the way he's run it," said Mr Rogers.

"No-one knows the true extent of the debts except Harding and he's not communicating with anybody."

Former City vice-president Peter Lewis also expressed concern at the latest developments, saying: "I am greatly concerned at the current situation and the uncertainty of the future of the club.

"The immediate problem is the payment of players and staff. Beyond that the club can be saved following the winding up of the company, but the actions of the directors are putting at increasing risk our future in the Ryman Premier League."