LONDON - Financially stricken Portsmouth have ruled out an immediate mass exodus of top players despite being given special permission to sell outside the transfer window by the Premier League.
Portsmouth, who had nine points deducted last week after going into administration, are almost certain to be relegated but the relaxation of the League's transfer rules means the club can off-load players to reduce its estimated 70 million pounds debts.
Despite the decision by the Premier League's Board on Wednesday, Portsmouth's administrator Andrew Andronikou said it would not mean a fire sale of its top earners such as England goalkeeper David James.
"I'm not expecting an exodus. If there was an opportunity I wouldn't sell more than one or two," he told Reuters by telephone.
The League said any players Portsmouth sell will not be allowed to play for their new clubs this season while another stipulation would be that FIFA approval is needed to sell players to the Football League or abroad.
"The club is now stable and we have control of the cash flow and we are looking at all aspects of its overheads and stripping out unneccessary costs to make it a viable business," Andronikou said.
"But the club still needs to play football, it still has a fixture list to fulfill and an FA Cup semi-final to play and hopefully a final to get into. I don't want to interfere with (manager) Avram Grant's plans.
"This decision is a good one in that it gives us another option and effectively gives us a head start into what we could realise in terms of transfers from our squad of players."
With Portsmouth marooned at the foot of the Premier League despite a morale-boosting win over Hull City on Saturday, Andronikou said his main priority was to make sure the south coast club reduced its overheads and came out of administration.
Andronikou hopes to propose to its many creditors that it come out of administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) in the next few weeks. Failure to do that could result in a 10-point penalty by the Football League.
"We have a prohibitive time deadline because we don't want this to protract into next season because we would get another points deduction in the Championship," Andronikou said.
"I want to get the club out of administration if not before the end of the season, at the end of the season. We have to be in a CVA before the start of next season."
Remarkably, despite a background of spiralling debt, threats of closure, missed wages and speculation about prospective buyers, Portsmouth have reached the FA Cup semi-final where they will play either Fulham or Tottenham Hotspur.
"Thankfully it has focussed people's attention that this is still a football club and not a basket case," Andronikou said.
"It also gives the players something to work towards despite the nine-point deduction and they are pulling out all the stops to play competitively. Lastly, it gives us much-needed working capital."
Andronikou praised manager Avram Grant and hoped the Israeli would still be at the club next season.
"There is nothing in the conversations I've had with him so far that says he is not going to be," he said.
"He is an incredible character and definitely an asset that I don't want to lose but he has to make a decision from his own personal point of view whether he wants to stay with us and help the team back. It may be a challenge he wants to take on."comments