Beleaguered Saints staring into the abyss

SOUTHAMPTON are likely to fold before the end of the season unless a buyer for the ailing Coca-Cola Championship club can be found.

The company which owns the south-coast club, Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, yesterday went into administration with its chairman, Rupert Lowe, resigning.

Club chairman Michael Wilde and director Andrew Cowen have also left both the company and the club, with recovery and restructuring specialists Begbies Traynor placed in charge.

And joint-administrator Mark Fry admits the outlook is bleak for Saints, who are more than £30m (e32.8m) in debt and in danger of being relegated to League One.

“If we don’t find a buyer for the club there is a very, very high probability that it will not last until the end of the season. Realistically it will mean the end of the football club,” Fry said.

“It’s a very different economic climate from two years ago and football clubs have fallen as hard as anything. It’s a difficult task but we will search very hard for a buyer. And I would say that anyone looking to buy the club will find it a lot cheaper than it would have been two years ago.”

By placing their parent company into administration, however, Saints appear to have at least avoided a 10-point deduction from the Football League.

The League will discuss the matter at a scheduled meeting on Tuesday, but as things stand they cannot apply the standard sanction because the club itself is not in administration.

The fact they may not be docked points is unlikely to sit well with the other teams in the relegation scrap, while the League’s bottom club Luton — themselves deducted 20 points relating to their own fall into administration — have been quick to voice their disapproval.

“This makes a mockery of the Football League’s attempt to uphold the integrity of the competition,” said their managing director Gary Sweet.


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