Portsmouth will go into administration on Friday unless a buyer comes forward before then, the club's owner has announced.
Hong Kong businessman Balram Chainrai is in talks with four different consortia about a takeover but admits it is "unlikely" a deal will be done.
With a winding up order due in the High Court on Monday, the decision has been taken to go into administration instead to save the club.
A statement released to Press Association Sport said: "Businessman Balram Chainrai, the owner of Portsmouth Football Club, has today served notice that the club will go into Administration unless new owners can be found by Friday (February 26).
"Mr Chainrai and fellow investors from his Portpin investment vehicle, are in London to continue talks with representatives of four different groups interested in buying the South Coast club, but have had to reluctantly accept that it is now unlikely a deal can be done before a winding up hearing due to be heard in the High Court on Monday."
Chainrai's spokesman Phil Hall said administration - which carries a nine-point penalty in the Premier League - would keep the club alive as the winding up order would be automatically suspended. Portsmouth have debts of £70million and the winding up order was over £7.5million owed to HM Revenue and Customs.
Hall said: "There is now only a short window of opportunity for buyers to come in with a credible offer. We have to be realistic and having the club wound up is not an option as far as we are concerned.
"They are victims of circumstances having injected funds in the form of a short-term loan to the Al Faraj Group, who subsequently invested the money in the club. The partners have put £17million of their own money into the club and have a responsibility to ensure Portsmouth survives.
"Administration would mean the club re-emerging as a healthy financial entity and it would then become an attractive proposition for a potential buyer who could invest new funds in rebuilding the club's future.
"We would like to ask the fans, the staff and management of Portsmouth Football Club for their support and patience should this step be taken as they believe it is the only route left open to them. The serving of this notice means the winding up order is automatically suspended. It means the club is safe, it can fulfil its fixtures and as far as is possible it is business as usual."
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