Lowe and behold

Southampton are likely to fold before the end of the season unless a buyer for the ailing Championship club can be found - and that could be good news for Norwich City.

Southampton are likely to fold before the end of the season unless a buyer for the ailing Championship club can be found - and that could be good news for Norwich City.

Should Saints go under, then the team's result would be annulled and only two clubs relegated to League One - and that would leave City in a healthier, although not entirely safe, position.

The Canaries would lose one point, as would Barnsley, Charlton and Derby, but the biggest losers would be Blackpool and Plymouth, who would lose the four points they have taken off Southampton this season.

If the assumption is that Charlton are all but relegated, then at least five and possibly more clubs would be fighting to avoid the remaining place, increasing the odds of City surviving.

A revised table would see Forest slip into an abbreviated relegation zone, a point behind Plymouth and four behind Norwich. Barnsley and Blackpool would both have just a point more than City, with Watford two points further ahead - compared to the four-point margin they currently hold.

All of which is complicated by this weekend's fixture list, which sees Barnsley at home to Forest and Blackpool at home to Plymouth. Southampton face Charlton in a game which could have little significance for either.

Most Read

Matters would change significantly at the top end of the table too - Wolves would remain top with 74 points, but Reading would leapfrog Birmingham into the second automatic promotion spot.

The ramifications of Southampton's possible demise are huge and stem from a debt which has reached �30m.

The company which owns the 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.

Joint administrator Mark Fry admitted the outlook was bleak for Saints.

"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.'

Controversial former chairman Lowe is, according to Fry, unlikely to be among any potential buyers.

"We would welcome an approach from anybody, but as far as I am informed Rupert Lowe has not shown an interest,' he added.

"We are urging the fans to show up and support the team for the last three home games to help the cash-flow of the business and also demonstrate to potential investors the level of the fan base.'

By placing their parent company into administration, Saints may have avoided a 10-point deduction from the Football League.

The League's Board - of which Norwich chief executive Neil Doncaster is a member - will discuss the matter at a scheduled meeting on Tuesday, but while they cannot apply the standard sanction because the club itself is not in administration, the League is understood to be keeping a close eye on developments , and particularly just who is running the club. The inference is that if it's the administrators, then they run the risk of a penalty.

"We are in dialogue with the Football League and we don't think the club should be affected,' said Fry.

"We don't think the rules apply to this but we will find out in due course.'