Third tier Portsmouth will lose league status if they do not exit administration by the end of the season and if a takeover by the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) does not succeed, the Football League said on Thursday.
A renowned soccer deal-maker is leading a new bid to rescue the English club who have been in administration for a year and are again facing another relegation.
Fans from the Pompey Supporters' Trust (PST) had been hoping to take over the former Premier League club but their plan has been delayed by legal complications over ownership of the Fratton Park stadium. They now face a rival bid.
The Football League said in a statement that they would not accept a takeover from any group other than preferred bidder PST.
"Given that The Football League's Insolvency Policy prohibits a club from beginning two consecutive seasons in administration, the Board took the view that any change of preferred bidder at such a late stage would only create further uncertainty and was not in the wider interests of The League and its member clubs," the statement said.
"Therefore, The League has informed the Administrator that it will not currently consider transferring the Club's share in The Football League to a new bidder.
"This means that in the event that the PST bid does not succeed and Portsmouth do not exit administration before the end of the current playing season, the club will lose its membership of The Football League."
Portsmouth joint administrator Trevor Birch said earlier that another offer for the club had been received.
"This offer has been made by Keith Harris, a former chairman of the Football League, together with Pascal Najadi, deputy chairman of the investment bank AIAK Group, and Alan Hitchins, a professional investor," he said in a statement.
Birch, who works for accountancy firm PKF, said he believed the offer could be completed without court approval, giving it a potential advantage over the PST bid.
Harris, chairman of London stockbroker Seymour Pierce, is prepared to meet the supporters to discuss a role for them in running the club. He has been involved in helping to arrange a number of soccer takeovers in the past.
However, the Trust said it wanted to pursue its plan to make Portsmouth the biggest fan-owned club in English soccer.
"PST can assure its supporters that its bid to buy Portsmouth Football Club is fully funded, ready to go and offers the best option for the creditors and for the long-term security of the club," it said in a statement.
"In addition PST can reveal we increased its bid for Fratton Park earlier this week to make our package even more attractive."
Portsmouth were in the Premier League as recently as the 2009-10 season but have become a byword for financial mismanagement in English soccer.
The team are facing relegation for a second successive season. They are second from bottom of League One and face a 10-point penalty for being in administration.
Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters