Portsmouth ask permission to sell players

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The Independent Online

Crisis club Portsmouth have confirmed they have asked the Premier League if they can sell players outside the transfer window.

However, the move will depend on their request being sanctioned by the Football Association and FIFA as well as the Premier League.

Pompey want to sell some of their players in a bid to pay their bills and have asked the Premier League for permission to do so.

A spokesman for the south coast club told Press Association Sport: "I can confirm we have put in a request to the Premier League to sell players outside the transfer window. It is something we are exploring."

Pompey have not identified any specific players for sale but reports suggest Algeria World Cup star Nadir Belhadj, midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng and young defender Mark Wilson could be made available.

But Pompey are facing a race against time to gain permission to sell anyone.

While the Premier League and the FA may make an exception for Pompey, it is unlikely FIFA will sanction the move.

The club are still understood to be in negotiations with two interested buyers but any deal will have to be done swiftly if either of the parties involved is to come to Pompey's rescue.

The club faces a winding-up petition from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an unpaid £11.7million tax bill on March 1 and will require a major injection of cash if they are to avoid being wound up.

Portsmouth lodged their Statement of Affairs with the High Court yesterday in a bid to prove they are still a solvent company.

The Statement of Affairs, a detailed look at the club's accounts, was prepared by accountants from Vantis and delivered in time for the 4pm deadline

Six members of the business recovery service worked tirelessly on the statement since last Wednesday when Pompey were given a week to hand the document to the High Court.

Pompey will return to the High Court on March 1 after HMRC officials have examined the document.

But there are a number of potential problems for Pompey even if they gain permission to sell players now.

Belhadj needs games as he is going to the World Cup while Boateng has already played for two clubs.

But if Pompey are wound up then it would present the Premier League with a massive headache.

Pompey would throw the competition into turmoil if they fail to fulfil their fixtures and that is something Premier League officials are desperate to avoid.

Simon Wilson, a partner with Zolfo Cooper the restructuring experts, warns that Pompey, despite handing in their Statement of Affairs, still face the very real threat of extinction and that going into administration is an unlikely salvation.

"Arguably, the level of debt associated with this case, will mean that it is unlikely that a suitable or willing benefactor will be found," said Wilson.

"Portsmouth therefore face the very real threat of liquidation because it is increasingly unlikely that an administration order will be sought or granted.

"In this eventuality, the players contracts are no longer assets of the club and it would lose its membership of the Premier League.

"The role of the liquidator would be to realise whatever free and available assets still remain.

"The value of these assets would be nominal. While the unsecured creditors, including HMRC, would likely see no return from such a process, it is not in their interests to continue to support a business that is simply not viable and has no financial substance.

"To continue to underwrite the club would most likely result in greater losses at a later date. This would be an unprecedented case in the realms of the Premier League and would throw light on the fact that clubs can no longer rely on 'white knights' to rescue them from financial ruin.

"Many football clubs have allowed their levels of debt to grow to immense proportions. These debts cannot be serviced and investors simply don't have the appetite or ability to take on such poor business propositions."

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