THE Matthew Le Tissier backed Pinnacle consortium have entered an exclusivity period with the aim of completing a buy-out of Saints within three weeks.

The group have stumped up the £500,000 non-refundable deposit that will allow the staff and players at the club to be paid their wages for May.

They now have the opportunity to complete full due-diligence before deciding whether to proceed with their proposed offer for the club, which has been given the seal of approval by the major creditors.

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The time frame to complete the deal is three weeks but during that period Pinnacle, who have been negotiating the talks on behalf of a wealthy investor, cannot be gazumped.

They have beaten three other groups to the exclusivity period - a duo of Irish businessman, a consortium led by businessmen Stuart Green and Marc Jackson and another group believed to be from Zurich.

In a statement, administrators Mark Fry and David Hudson of Begbies Traynor, said: "We are pleased to announce that they have entered into an exclusivity agreement with the Pinnacle Consortium for the sale of all of the assets of the Company, including Southampton Football Club.

"In order to enter into the exclusivity agreement, the Consortium has paid a non-refundable, undisclosed fee, and as a result the Club is now in a position to pay its staff wages in full for the month of May.

"The exclusivity agreement will last for 21 days, during which time we will be working hard with the Consortium on the technical aspects required to complete the sale, and we will make a further announcement when it is appropriate to do so."

Mark Fry added: "I am extremely pleased to be able to announce this significant development in the sale process of Southampton Leisure Holdings Plc."