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Saints alive....just

PUBLISHED: 10:11 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:37 03 July 2010

Norwich City's Championship relegation rivals Southampton landed a temporary reprieve yesterday after the Football League launched an independent inquiry into the club's perilous financial position.

Norwich City's Championship relegation rivals Southampton landed a temporary reprieve yesterday after the Football League launched an independent inquiry into the club's perilous financial position.

City chief executive Neil Doncaster was part of the eight-member board who met to discuss imposing a potential ten point penalty after the Saints' parent company was wound up last week. Football League chiefs are believed to favour a points deduction with widespread discontent among member clubs over Southampton's attempts to exploit the same ownership loophole used successfully by Derby in 2003.

The Football League will now seek expert advice amid fears of a legal minefield over possible sanctions that could effectively condemn Southampton to League One.

Southampton has indicated they would appeal any likely ten-point penalty while a number of the club's Championship relegation rivals have already widely criticised the decision not to impose an automatic deduction.

Following the board meeting in London chaired by Lord Mawhinney the Football League released a statement which read: “The League Board has instructed its legal advisors to commission an independent forensic accountancy report in order to clarify the legal and financial position of the club, as a matter of urgency. The Board will reconvene once that report is available.”

The Football League has previously handed out stiff points sentences to Luton, Bournemouth, Rotherham and Darlington this season for entering administration but Saints' officials remain adamant their holding company is a separate entity in law.

Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC was wound up last week with reported debts of £27.5m after plunging more than £30m into building the club's 32,000 seater St Mary's Stadium eight years ago.

Southampton's joint administrator Mark Fry is confident the south coast club will avoid any points deduction.

“Subject to the scope of the report we welcome the Football League's initiative in commissioning an independent report into the legal and financial position of the club ahead of any decision being made on the possibility of a ten point deduction,” he said. “In our view this indicates the situation will be reviewed thoroughly and independently ahead of any decision made. We are confident of a successful outcome because in our view no rules have been breached.”

The Football League hierarchy can expect a legal backlash should Southampton escape punishment and go on to secure their Championship status over the final month of the season.

Southampton's relegated rivals could pursue compensation through the courts with clear parallels to the long running Carlos Tevez affair following Sheffield United's controversial Premiership relegation in 2007.

Former Blades' boss Neil Warnock and a group of his ex-players indicated they intended to launch independent compensation claims after West Ham and Sheffield United recently announced agreement had finally been reached between the clubs over a multi-million pound financial settlement.


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