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Sports site fouls out as funds dry up

U.K. courts hand Sports.com to a business advisory that will attempt to divide the company's assets and possibly sell its Web site.

Sports.com is close to getting the red card after the Internet sports site was placed in administration by the U.K. courts last week.

The company is hoping to sell the U.K. site as a going concern, but the feeling within the dot-com industry is that this is unlikely and that Sports.com will close this summer with the loss of up to 150 jobs.

Sports.com went into administration Friday morning, shortly before the start of the World Cup--which had been expected to generate a boost in the number of people visiting the site. It is expected to stay in operation until the World Cup finishes at the end of June.

London-based business adviser Baker Tilly, which has been appointed as administrator, has taken charge of Sports.com and will attempt to realize the maximum value of the company's assets.

"We think there is a possibility of selling the Sports.com Web site, and we intend to run it through the World Cup," said Bruce Mackay of Baker Tilly.

"For this we need to secure the support of key suppliers, the advertisers and sponsors, and of course the public who use the site," Mackay added in a statement released by Sports.com.

According to Baker Tilly, Sports.com's European subsidiaries are not in administration and are up for sale.

The decision to put Sports.com into administration appears to have been precipitated by the refusal of one of the site's backers--U.S.-based SportsLine.com--to provide additional funding for the company.

"We and the other shareholders were unwilling to provide additional capital to fund Sports.com's operations, and we support the decision by the Sports.com board of directors to place the company in administration in order to protect the creditors," Michael Levy, chief executive of SportsLine.com, which owns around 30 percent of Sports.com, said in a statement released last week.

Sports.com had content deals with several big-name companies and football clubs, including Juventus and Manchester United.

ZDNET U.K.'s Graeme Wearden reported from London.