Forest must sell in order to stay afloat

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The Independent Football

Nottingham Forest's financial situation is so dire that the club is prepared to listen to offers for any of its players, Paul Hart, the club's manager, admitted yesterday.

"There are people you wouldn't like to sell but the fact is we have got to reduce the wage bill," Hart said. "I think the fans will understand. They realise an awful lot of money has been spent in the last two years – £27 million in transfer fees and salaries, which is not chicken feed for any club.

"We have to be realistic in the situation we are in and we are open to offers. I am a professional and I know I have to balance the financial situation at the club and the need for winning football matches.

"I don't know how many players we will have to sell, but I know I have to reduce the wage bill. We have got some very good players and people will contact us. We had a bid from Birmingham in the summer from Chris Bart-Williams but we turned it down."

Forest expect to receive bids soon for three of their midfielders. Andy Johnson, Bart-Williams and Alan Rogers are all out of contract at the end of the new season and are jointly valued at £9m. Off-loading the trio would go some way to clearing the club's debts, estimated to be £6m and rising by £100,000 a week. Further sales would be needed to put the club on an even keel in the long-term, however, and that is likely to jeopardise the chances of promotion back to the Premiership. The 1979 and 1980 European Cup winners are about to start their third season in the First Division following their relegation in 1999.

The former Queen's Park Rangers director Andrew Ellis has withdrawn his bid for control of the club, paving the way for a fans' consortium to take them out of administration.

Ellis had been granted a three-week lock-out period to prove he had the cash to back up his proposal. But he has been forced to pull out of negotiations, leaving the club free to look at other offers.

The only other bid tabled so far comes from the fans' consortium headed by Maurice Fitzgerald, which has pledged to keep the club at Loftus Road.

The Ellis bid had been unpopular with fans because he had proposed moving the club, relegated to the Second Division last season, from their home of 70 years to a new site near Heathrow 16 miles away.

Fitzgerald's bid is apparently backed by a major investment company and private investors.

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