SAINTS chairman Nicola Cortese has today broken his silence and denied rumours that the club is up for sale.

Speculation about Southampton Football Club has been mounting since the death of former owner, Swiss billionaire Markus Liebherr, in August. There were fears his family would sell the south coast club.

Speaking to the BBC, who have a financial arrangement with Southampton Football Club, Cortese said the rumours of a sell-off were false and stemmed from a campaign designed to destabalise the club.

He said: "The club is not for sale. There's always been a group behind the scenes with an agenda that's not good."

Cortese, who conducted the deal to buy the club in 2009, added: "The commitment even after Markus passed away is exactly the same, and nothing has changed.

"This is a deliberate attempt to damage the club at this time because we're in negotiations with players and a very important [potential sponsorship] brand."

Saints fans had previously called for Cortese to put their "minds at ease" following wide speculation reported in national newspapers at the weekend.

As reported in today's Daily Echo, Mike O'Callaghan, chairman of SISA, urged him to break his silence, saying: "In this case silence is not golden and until the chairman comes out and puts fans' minds at ease I will be a bit suspicious. It would be nice to know - there needs to be more transparency from the club."

But today Cortese said the commitment to the club remained "exactly the same" in the aftermath of Mr Liebherr's sudden death.

He said: "I have been the boss of this from the beginning. Markus never made decisions, I did, and that is the same now."