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Birch sets Portsmouth deadline

ESPN can reveal that Portsmouth administrator Trevor Birch has served notice on all players and staff that the club will shut down on August 10 unless high earners such as Kanu and Tal Ben Haim, owed a combined £6 million, accept compromise deals.

Birch has imposed a deadline of four days before the Carling Cup tie at Plymouth and eight days before the opening league game at home to Bournemouth to save the club from oblivion. And the doomsday scenario for the 2008 FA Cup winners and former Premier League club was disclosed to ESPN.

"Everybody, including the players, have been served notice that the club will close down on August 10," Birch said. "The only way the club can be saved is if the players accept compromise deals, the Football League are in constant touch and know the situation, the PFA are also aware of it and are doing all they can to help

"If the new owner does not take over the liabilities and guarantee £10 million of football creditors then the Football League will not transfer its share and the club will go under. To save the club we are frantically trying to negotiate with players such as Kanu and Tal Haim. We have offered Tal Haim a substantial compromise which he has turned down, so it is difficult to negotiate.

"Perhaps he is playing a game of bluff. Perhaps he thinks we are bluffing that the new owner will save the club and still pay him or accept his liabilities going forward."

Former Chelsea and Bolton defender Ben Haim is claiming the remainder of his £40,000-a-week contract, plus salary arrears, plus bonuses. His claim amounts to £3 million, while former Arsenal striker Kanu has a claim for a similar amount.

Birch added: "Yes, we are now reaching a critical time, time is running out. I can only hope by serving notice that the club will shut down on August 10 and this will concentrate people's minds."

The Portsmouth administrator revealed in an exclusive interview with ESPN at the weekend that the situation was so grave that the club was on the brink and might have only "two or three weeks" left to survive. Now the deadline date has been set for just 13 more working days.

Since then Ben Haim has spoken out saying that the administrator should cut some of their £650,000 costs. But Birch responded: "What nonsense. We have had authority from the creditors for £425,000 but to keep the club alive we have taken just £200,000 for six months work. Our costs are more than £1 million, which we will never recover."

Birch also revealed that the club only had eight senior players left, but that is down to seven with Luke Varney moving to Leeds for £200,000 while the entire amount has been swallowed up in payments owed to Derby County.

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