It's a fudge, not a fairytale
Blood or money: that was the choice on offer in the Victory Lounge last week. And once all the votes had been counted, the electorate's decision was clear. They wanted both.
Portsmouth's creditors said "yes" to the offer of an investigation into the appalling mismanagement at Fratton Park in recent years, and "it's better than nothing" to the prospect of getting back at least 20% of their money.
As gatherings of people owed money go, the Pompey creditors' meeting was slightly botched, occasionally angry and often depressing.
It was also the best possible result for the club's beleaguered supporters and Avram Grant's chances of pulling off an FA Cup upset against Chelsea on Saturday.
But having sat through five hours of bickering, buck-passing and bullying, forgive me if I don't get carried away with the "romance of the Cup" this year. Some romance.
That's not to say I don't want Pompey to win. I root for the little guy in most scraps, but I'll be cheering for Grant's gang with caveats because I want football to ask itself questions that will be avoided if Chelsea prevail and Pompey are forgotten.
Is it appropriate that a bankrupt club can win our national game's most famous competition (twice)? How does a club run up debts of £135m in the world's richest football league anyway? And for how much longer can football defend a system that sees millionaire players looked after at the expense of ordinary tax-payers and local businesses?
Portsmouth's players training for the FA Cup final aginst Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday
But I should start by explaining what I was doing at Thursday's meeting, what happened and why it matters.
First up, I was there as a creditor's proxy, which isn't as exciting as it sounds. Like many of Pompey's creditors, the firm I represented isn't owed much - not enough to want to sit in a windowless room all day anyway - so I phoned up and asked if they could help a crusader for truth in his attempt to hold the bad guys to account.
They said they had no idea what I was talking about but if it would make me go away they would sign the form and fax it to the administrators.
They weren't the first company I tried but I had my golden ticket. I also had a good idea of the kind of guesstimation that has passed for book-keeping at Pompey. Of the dozen firms I contacted most disputed the amount they were owed. For some it was too much, for others it was too little.
None of these discrepancies matter when compared to the sums claimed by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and others, but if you're looking for clues as to what has been happening this is a pretty good lead.
There are plenty more, though, and most of them got an airing on Thursday.
Which member of the Gaydamak family really owned the club between 2006 and 2009, why was Sulaiman Al-Fahim allowed in the boardroom, what does Ali Al-Faraj look like and when exactly did current owner Balram Chainrai lend him money? Good questions, all of them, and they are on joint administrator Andrew Andronikou's long to-do list.
The good news (and there is some) is that Andronikou sounded like he might actually get around to answering these questions - or perhaps it is better to say HMRC, and some of the other more blood-thirsty creditors, will keep asking them until he does. And if he can't do it then maybe the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills might try. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The real business of the day was the procedural step of Andronikou asking creditors for permission to draft a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) proposal and to appoint a creditors' committee.
A CVA is a deal that allows companies to exit administration by paying off a reduced amount of debt over a fixed period. In football's polite society, it is the preferred way to extract oneself from the temporary embarrassment of insolvency. It is also a shabby compromise that leaves innocent people out of pocket.
Pompey administrator Andrew Andronikou needs the support of Revenue & Customs to take his plans forward
Unlike others that day, Andronikou was given a thumping mandate to get on with the job. As this wasn't really a surprise, he was able to reveal the contents of the deal he had just been asked to draw up.
The main details have made their way into the public domain (ahem) so there is no need to dwell on them here.
Chainrai's offer to treat charities and all creditors owed less than £2,500 like, well...himself, the playing staff, football clubs and the rest of the paid-in-full family, was a nice touch, make no mistake.
Only a cynic would suggest this gesture takes 235 of the club's 422 creditors out of the equation whilst only costing £180,000 but the world is full of cynics and there were a couple in the Victory Lounge. I think they may have been on the wrong side of £2,500.
Very much on the wrong side are HMRC and a fleet of investment vehicles under the control of A Gaydamak (take your pick). Their support for the Andronikou's plan is vital if Pompey are going to line up in the Championship next year.
A CVA needs the support of 75% of the unsecured creditors (everybody apart from Chainrai, a few financial institutions and £2.5m-worth of the Gaydamak debt) and that vote is based on amounts owed.
It had been feared HMRC might block a CVA on the grounds it is a bit rich to expect the public purse to take an 80% hit when clubs owed fees and players wages walk away quids in. But the taxman has used those fears to extract concessions. Other clubs teetering on the brink of administration should take note.
First, HMRC doubled its claim against Pompey. The £17m it was owed in February has grown to £35m. The additional amount comes from fines for late payment and penalties for under-payment related to the thorny issue of image rights - this is another reason why Portsmouth's case has implications for the rest of football.
Second, HMRC not only has a place on the five-strong creditors' committee that represents the interests of all those owed money during the CVA process, it almost handpicked the rest of the committee.
The "vote" to decide this would have shamed North Korea and sparked the angriest clashes of the meeting between Andronikou and his team on one side, and the other insolvency experts in the room on the other. Names were suggested from the floor only to see lawyers scurrying to ask what HMRC thought. It was like watching a Labour Party Conference from the block vote era.
Sorting it all out took over an hour but it was worth it as the committee that emerged was better than the one first proposed. A combination of HMRC, the Gaydamaks, the Professional Footballers' Association, a football agency and two local suppliers sharing a seat is a fair representation of the body of creditors.
But the final HMRC concession was by far the most important and brings me back to why some are baying for blood..
The taxman has blocked football CVAs for two reasons: one, annoyance about the football creditors rule, and two, the fact that administrators become supervisors the minute a CVA is passed and their focus turns to running the business/finding new investment. A liquidator, on the other hand, is obliged to find out what has brought a failed company to such an ugly pass.
So the proposed Pompey CVA is not your usual get-out-of-jail-almost-free card. It's a pay-out plan that starts under the existing company, Portsmouth City Football Club Ltd, but is transferred to a new company after nine months. PCFC Ltd is then liquidated (and investigated) and the new company funds the CVA for the remaining four years and three months of its term.
All goes to plan and Pompey can start next season on zero points, with something better than their academy team, creditors can look forward to seeing some of their money back and HMRC et al can enjoy seeing the club's various directors explain their recruitment and remuneration decisions over the last few years.
If the plan doesn't work...let's not go there, not during Cup final fairytale week, anyway.
That's enough for now but I'm happy to chat below. There is one moment of levity from the meeting I would like to share. A creditor, while asking a question about a slide the administrators were showing, pointed out that he supplied the projector. He hadn't been paid for it either. Come to think of it, he wasn't laughing.