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Championship Betting: Why Saints must be punished

Championship RSS / / 06 April 2009 /

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Not long ago, Southampton were considered one of the most stable clubs in English football. Not anymore, says Nick Wardle as he considers the decline of a club which has given us the likes of Le Tissier, Shearer and Walcott.

Football League board meetings don't normally sound like riveting affairs but fans of Southampton will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of Tuesday's meeting.

By the end of it, because of Southampton's parent company Southampton Leisure Holding (SLH) going into administration, Saints could be docked ten points and thus doomed to League One next season. Other clubs such as Leeds and Luton Town, who were hit with points deductions themselves after going into administration, will also be keeping a close eye on the meeting and will be sure to protest if Saints are let off.

Saints were once one of the most stable clubs in England. They spent 27 years in the top flight between 1978-2005 and in that period had some big-name managers such as Graeme Souness and Glenn Hoddle and some big-name players such as Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier.

Southampton plc chairman Rupert Lowe and football club chairman Michael Wilde both resigned last week and it's the former who has got much of the blame from the fans for the demise of the club. To be frank, it's hard to look past him.

Wilde must also take some of the blame, though, as when he took over in 2006 he promised new investment and that he'd get rid Rupert Lowe - he did for a year, but then invited Saint's pantomime villain back into the fold.

I'm sure most Saints fans will agree that the club did need to leave The Dell for a more modern stadium and although the move to St Mary's in 2001 was always going to put Saints into debt, other clubs such as Derby and Sunderland have moved stadiums without ending up in administration.

Lowe did introduce many cost-cutting measures such as loaning out big-earners to get them off the wage bill and shutting part of St Mary's on match days but despite this, SLH are estimated to be around £27.5 million in debt. All this despite receiving around £40 million in transfers since their relegation for the likes of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Kenwyne Jones and receiving two years' worth of parachute money (estimated to be around £6.5 million a season) from the Premier League.

Saints will be hoping the fact that it's the parent company of the club that's in administration and not the club (as they're an asset) may save them a points deduction. If Saints are let off then surely every other club will rush to set themselves up in the same manner and thus be able to be cavalier with their finances without risk of reprisal.

A drop into League One would make Saints less appealing to investors and it's been reported that unless SLH attracts new investment, the club could go into liquidation in the summer. On the bright side, however, the administrators have said they've received over 17 enquiries and the fact that over 27,000 flocked to St Mary's on Saturday is proof the club has a good fan base.

Saints are currently second favourites for relegation from The Championship at 1.35 - a ten point deduction would obviously lower those odds. A fall in Saint's odds may also see a slight lengthening in the odds of their relegation rivals, so it's well worth checking the odds after Tuesday's meeting. At present it's a toss of the coin between Nottingham Forest (2.3) and Norwich (2.38) to join Saints and Charlton (1.02) in League One.

Although it would be shame to see a club like Saints plunging into League One, it would be a scandal if the club didn't receive the same treatment as Leeds etc. It's true that a points penalty may be academic given Saints perilous league position (and could be held over until next season anyway) but they shouldn't be immune to punishment because of a technicality.

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