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Alchemy in reverse

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Gordon Farquhar | 16:39 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

It has often been said, but it's worth repeating, that football isn't a normal business and fans aren't ordinary customers.

There is no other business model outside of sport where, no matter how bad the product, the consumers will keep on buying into it regardless.

That's why they need protecting.

Portsmouth's string of owners and directors have let down their fans, but the supporters have also been let down by the Premier League and the Football Association as well.

Football won the big battle over regulation a decade ago, when those involved in the Football Task Force, a major consultation into how the game should be run, couldn't agree on the right course of action.

Self-regulation continued, with the bolt-on of the pointless Independent Football Commission, set up in 2001 only to fizzle out eventually. In 2004, the IFC said it had appraised its role and success, concluding that its powers were "too limited to effect the restoration of public confidence in the game that is urgently required".

That was six years ago. I'm not convinced that public confidence in the game today is any higher.

Take a snapshot.

The front and back pages of the English newspapers are dominated by John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge.

Uefa sent up a distress flare in a report on debt that showed that almost half of the clubs it licences are not making any profit. It is also carrying out an investigation into a Europe-wide match-fixing and corruption scandal.

Now we have the demise of Portsmouth.

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Callers and texters to BBC Radio 5 live have been telling us in their droves that this is a bad day for football. That must mean it's a bad day for the Premier League, too. It has been riding a constant up-escalator ever since it was formed. Well, Portsmouth have just hit the emergency stop button.

"How could this have happened to a club in the richest league in the world?" has become a topic of conversation within international football, led by Fifa themselves.

Portsmouth have become alchemy in reverse. They've put their hand into the pot of gold and turned it to lead.

How? In the simplest of terms, by spending more than they were earning.

But where have the checks and balances been in the last three years?

The Premier League is about to introduce new rules which will oblige clubs to submit more financial information. It means it should get an early warning and be able to intervene when clubs are starting to live beyond their means.

But the trend towards deepening debt has been emerging for some time and these regulations, whilst welcome, have come too late for Pompey's fans. They have been buying their season tickets and merchandise in good faith, believing everything would be all right in the end.

Some are aggrieved about the League's fit and proper persons test, which, in Pompey's case, appears to have delivered nothing of the sort. At the very least, it's a misnomer, as it was never designed to be a barometer of a potential owner's wealth nor his true intentions or motivation.

There's no doubt Pompey's case has jolted other clubs.

Hull chairman Adam Pearson described the chain of events at Fratton Park as a massive wake-up call. "It's rocked a few boats," he said. "There's a feeling that we're not just going to listen to the top four now and worry about their breakaway to whatever Champions League format they want to play in. We're going to look after the core clubs in the Premier League."

A revelation or a revolution? The confident, all-conquering Premier League persona is beginning for the first time to look a little nervous...


  • Comment number 1.

    RE: Hull chairman Adam Pearson...said. "There's a feeling that we're not just going to listen to the top four now and worry about their breakaway to whatever Champions League format they want to play in. We're going to look after the core clubs in the Premier League."

    I'm interested in what Adam Pearson's definition of a 'core club' is. In my book the core clubs are the ones without whom the Premier League would cease to be 'Premier'. That would certainly include the top four (and the next four too) but I would struggle to include Hull in that 'core' group.

  • Comment number 2.

    Football finance and those that 'run' football are a big concern for me as an 'ordinary fan'.

    The EPL are only interested in feathering their own nest (look at the 39th game idea etc..) and although Portsmouths news today will cause some 'embarassment', i'm sure they don't care as Portsmouth in their eyes were never a big club with the sort of image they would be looking to project (small old ground, unable to fill every week etc..), despite the fact that most people allude to point that they have some passionate fans and support. BUT when have the fans ever mattered.

    As for those involved in football, with the latest investigations by HMRC into Harry Redknapp & Peter Storrie its amazing how both have justified moneys earned etc.. as bonuses for selling players for a profit !! As soon as you have people such as these making footballing decisions when actually selling a player brings them a direct return then can you wholeheartedly say that any changes in playing staff are done purely for footballing reasons ? How can Peter Storrie be one of the highest paid C/Execs in the EPL when his club have one of the worst financial scenarios ?

    The other disappointing thing about football is regards to the subject you touched on of self governance. You only have to look at the football media, football unions etc.. who will all say how sad it is for Portsmouth (or any other football club) and the fans but will never question or side against 'their own' to question the huge amounts of money earned by professional footballers (listening to Gordon Taylor try and answer this sort of question in the past has always made me cringe. Isn't he another one who is allegedly one of the highest paid union leaders ?)

    Football FANS continue to get fleeced by those running football and the same culprits that run or are involved in football are allowed to return to the game to do the same thing and lie to their fans again and again (How haapy are Cardiff fans at the moment with their latest goings on with Peter Risdale?)

    IF Portsmouth do go out of football, in all honestly who will care EXCEPT proper football fans ?

    I was dead against comments that Michel Platini was making about English football and its clubs as I saw him as only having a vendetta against the 'success' of English Football. Now I'm starting to think that he could be english football fans saviour.

    All this money in English Football - where does it go - to a select few - players and administrators - how many of them are upset about the demise of Portsmouth ?

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm amazed the Hull chairman has come out to speculate, considering their finances are far from secure...

  • Comment number 4.

    Well, Pearson is always happy to put his oar in even when it isn't needed...

  • Comment number 5.

    everybody is saying this is the leagues fault but in the end the blame lays with Portsmouth. they spent too much money and couldn't pay it back. there are only 2 clubs in the league that can get away with this, Chelsea and Man City. why did they not see this coming?

  • Comment number 6.

    Can someone please explain to me why the FA have gone to great lengths to save Portsmouth from administration why they did nothing to help\stop Crystal Palace. CPFC had nowhere near the level of debt and inept management that portsmouth had, yet were allowed to be "killed" off so readily. it strikes me as one rule for the "elite" and stuff the rest. comments welcome, but in any business a bad business plan will always collapse.

  • Comment number 7.

    Portsmouth's demise was ultimately brought about by horrendous final mismanagement, and if I were a Pompey fan paying good money week after week to get through the turnstiles, I'd be absolutely livid. It beggars belief that they managed to get themselves into £70m of debt and weren't able to pay it back, and, as a side issue, that senior figures such as Peter Storrie were able to continue receiving a bumper seven-figure salary despite the problems. My sympathies lie with the fans and the workers behind the scenes at Fratton Park, many of whom will lose their jobs as a result of the idiotic decisions made by those above them.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 1 preowned -

    How premier would the league be with just four teams playing round robin against each other for an entire season? I (as a liverpool fan) interpreted his meaning to be the core was anyone but the fluffy topping.

    And for everyone else picking on Pearson - is a warning that your flies are undone ignored if the guy is wearing the wrong shirt, even if you feel the draft?

  • Comment number 9.

    @Tom - no clubs can afford to spend money and not pay it back, even Chelsea and Man City!
    @Graham Cole - can you explain exactly what lengths the FA have gone to? As far as I'm aware they've done nothing. Firstly, it's a Premier League issue not an FA one and secondly, even the Premier League have refused to help Pompey out with early payments and an extended transfer window (so far...)

  • Comment number 10.

    They're trying to fix the gate years after the horse has bolted here.

    There must be at least a dozen now ex premier league clubs who have been or are in administration by now because of the pressure to spend way beyond their means to try and keep up with the competition.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Premier League, along with the FA, FIFA, UEFA etc are in charge of the game. What have they done to curb the ridiculous transfer fees and wages that have resulted in all major clubs becoming the playthings of millionaires (with no regards for the fans) and the situation where 4 clubs dominate the industry, snapping up any half decent player and stifling the development of other players and clubs?

    One thing is for sure, the whole pack of cards is about to collapse - it's not just the end of Portsmouth, it's the end of the elitist Premier League - and not before time.

    These incompetent prima donnas at the Premier League should be put out to grass and a single proper governing body for the English game created - run by people capable of rational thought.

  • Comment number 12.

    Until the majority of clubs put the greater good above individual self-interest, the way it is now is the way it will remain. Don't hold your breath whilst waiting for change.

  • Comment number 13.

    Curious about pieeater2010's views about what 'the greater good' is? Is it now to save a business that has brought about its own downfall through irreponsible acts? Or to show support for those clubs that have already shown wider social responsibility? Burnley (my team) live within their (not big) means. After this weekend they will have played twice against Pompey's unfairly financed full squad. So will Sunderland. But other clubs in the dropfight could be up against Pompey's youth team, if they are given special permission to sell at the level they need to fulfill their fixtures. Would Burnley voting to give Pompey that permission be acting 'in the greater good'? Or reinforcing what 'self-interest' has done to Pompey?

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm a Portsmouth Fan, and yes it is hard.
    The are several things that have surfaced from this farce.
    1. EVERYBODY involved within football is cupable in one why or another. Premier League, mainly for doing the bidding of the 'big 4' and forgetting the rest.
    2. The greed and the idea that football is a licence to print money if you happen to be in the richest league in the world.
    3.EUFA for not imposing stricter financial measures on it's members. Don't forget to Dutch clubs have also gone to wall this season.
    4. FIFA for not imposing stricter rules on local associations.
    5. 'Get rich quick' johnnys, foriegn or otherwise who come into the game to make a quick profit.
    6. Portsmouth management for not keeping their eye on rthe ball over the finances.
    7. The media, who's sole ambition it seems is to talk up the TV rights, with things like "Super Saturday", 2Super Derby Day" and the like. Initially it is their money that has spelt the demise of our once great national sport.
    The idea of playoffs for Champions league has only come about brecause 1 or 2 of the 'big 4' might not make it this year. so next year more money will be spent on attracting big egos to come and play football. 70 mil. on a forward pushes the price up for all teams thus the smaller ones can't complete.
    If you want an analogy. look at the 'big 4' supermarkets and the damage they are doing to small local shops.
    Portsmouth will come back and probably not grace the premier league again. I sspect it won't exist in 5 years anyway as the 'big 4' maybe even the 'big 8' will move on with TV deals and a new super league.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why did Portsmouth end up in £70 million of debt? Because otherwise they would not have enjoyed the success they have had winning the FA Cup and remaining in the Premier League for so long with such a small fan base! The reality is that if small clubs want to do more than just survive in the Premier League, which is also what their fans want, then they have to earn extra money somehow. In recent years the easiest way of getting money was to borrow it, but the clubs like other businesses have found that option harder to come by. I would no longer limit this view to the smaller clubs as the likes of Man U and Liverpool should be taking note.

  • Comment number 16.

    I really do think fans can take action. Take this as a scenario. I go to a pub. I enjoy the the drink, food and people I meet there. I'm hooked. I go back again and again over the years. One evening I realise the experience is not so good. I go back the next weekend and the food is dreadful, service poor, the beer very flat and over-priced, and notice the place is in serious need of a revamp. What do I do? I withdraw my custom and maybe find another place to go and have a drink.

    Fans are customers and have a choice. To blindly continue putting money into the poor product (in this case Portsmouth)or to hold on to their money and discover there are other joys in life as well. Like supporting Southampton - a better product,experience and value for money all round.

  • Comment number 17.

    14. At 09:41am on 27 Feb 2010, John Knight wrote
    I 100% agree.
    Also, our bigger problem is the players contracts, remember the problems Sheffield Wednesday had with Carbone's alleged J40k a week. We have many "Carbone's", who would be lucky to get 20% of their Pompey salary at another team, so they force their contracts.

  • Comment number 18.

    Man Utd are reported now to be having to sell players - like Pompey have been doing for 12 months and more. Any one who sees this as a problem only of bad management is myopic in the extreme. The constant whinging about small teams 'punching above their weight' (cringe making cliche) is the very attitude that allows the dominance of the 'big 4' at the expense of the game itself.

    Football is not the sole provenance of Liverpool, London and Manchester. It is the national game which is why it is so valuable to the media. Take the chance of competing on a level playing field (another over-worked cliche) from the North East, West Midlands, South Coast, etc etc etc and what have you got? A prima-donna-laden histrionic slice of non-sport that displays all the hype of show business - the triumph of style over substance.

    Time to wake up.

  • Comment number 19.

    If this is the way football is going then maybe we need to think of a new radical approach to football.
    Lets cut down from 92 teams to say 50, but re-distribute the licences fairly. One licence per population of 250,000. That way small clubs get a bigger fan base, thus more income.
    Re build stadia and facilities, let's have a standing only section so the 'real' fans can enjoy the game. Each club, every year has to submit it's statement of accounts before the licence is renewed. Each team has to have a youth academy bringing on local youngsters and a limit on 'foreign' players. A decent wage cap and perhaps performance related pay. You loose you don't get paid! Limit foreign ownership and the FPPT should include proof of finances to run a club. There should be 1 governing body, and everybody has 1 VOTE. this is to ensure that the bigger clubs, in terms of money, don't monopolise the sport. Oh! and fans trust should be compulsory at every club and a member voted on to the board of each club so that fans views are taken into account.

  • Comment number 20.

    In reply to the ides of march I do hope you are playing devils advocate, as a Middlesbrough Fan I would sooner sell my children into slavery than switch my allegiance to a more successful or rival club.
    All real football fans may be customers first, but for clubs like Pompey and Middlesbrough know supporting their team is almost a religious experience. It’s not a matter of choice it’s your destiny to be a Pompey (or Middlesbrough) Fan and they will be Pompey fans till they die...
    If we all viewed football as a product then we would all be Manchester United fans, and how dull would that be??

  • Comment number 21.

    #8 "How premier would the league be with just four teams playing round robin against each other for an entire season? I (as a liverpool fan) interpreted his meaning to be the core was anyone but the fluffy topping."

    Who suggested that the league would have only four teams? I didn't (and, to be fair, neither did Mr Pearson). My point was that if the definition of 'core teams' is every team down to the start of the relegation zone ,where Hull are, then the term is superflous (especially when there's only a point separating 17th & 19th places).

    #11 "What have they done to curb the ridiculous transfer fees and wages that have resulted in all major clubs becoming the playthings of millionaires (with no regards for the fans)"

    I would have put the cause and effect relationship the other way around. The wages and transfer fees have become ridiculous because teams are considered playthings of millionaires (or even billionaires).

    However, I would disagree that it was entirely without regard for the fans - after all, it's fan pressure for results that has driven so many clubs to the brink. These days it only takes a run of a handful of losses for the fans to be clamouring for a change of management or the resignation of the board. How many fans, with any real honesty, can say that they would be happy for their team to live within their means and never win anything? To fix the problem will take a change of priorities all the way through football including the fans themselves.

    Many people have suggested that there should be external oversight, whether from the FA or another body, that should regulate clubs expenditure. However, how will fans really react if that means that their club is stopped from buying a star player? Or can't bring in the manager that they want because he's deemed to be too expensive? Or, worst case, are relegated because they couldn't reinforce their squad?

    If clubs have to live within their means - i.e. they can't spend more than they earn - then we will still have a handful of rich clubs dominating the game. It might be a different group to the current 'big four' but it won't be a level playing field at all.

  • Comment number 22.

    Unfortunately Portsmouth situtation is an extension of what is going on in most businesses in this economic climate. Greedy executives have made good money in past good times but lack the essential business knowledge when times get tough. In my job we are seeing business with millions of pounds of turnover going bust leaving debts for smaller companies to try and survive with. After Golds comments about the state of clubs finances I am supprised it has not happened sooner. If you look to ITV is another example with Champions league coverage extended to gain some revenue back from their huge investment.

  • Comment number 23.

    #19 "Lets cut down from 92 teams to say 50, but re-distribute the licences fairly. One licence per population of 250,000. That way small clubs get a bigger fan base, thus more income."

    Interesting idea if you were starting from scratch but as 'Yellow,WhiteorRed' said "I would sooner sell my children into slavery than switch my allegiance to a more successful or rival club." so I can't see that happening now. It would also mean that smaller towns would loose their teams and, as the Portsmouth fans have reiterated, these are the heart of many smaller towns.

    "A decent wage cap and perhaps performance related pay. You loose you don't get paid!"

    Again a nice idea but if the penalty for loosing a match was that high, we'd just see teams playing defensively and the result would be lot of dull draws.

    Also, if you limit wages there would just be a whole load of other ways that teams, and their rich owners, would find to attract the best players (image rights and personal sponsorship deals leap to mind but I'm sure there would be others).

  • Comment number 24.

    It's very difficult to know what the right solution is - any turnover-based cap would just ensure the same teams stayed at the top year after year, it would be even more boring than it has been the last few years and anyone outside the "big four" might as well give up.

    A fixed salary or spending cap that was the same for all teams on the other hand would just drive all the best players to Spain or elsewhere.

    Perhaps one of the drawbacks of our pyramid system is that teams will always dream of reaching the next level, and will always spend money they don't have to achieve that. And I don't think Portsmouth will be a deterrent, in fact if they start next season with no points deduction and their debts written off with a good chance of coming straight back up it will actually be an incentive for others to do the same thing. Football needs its own Lehman Brothers, i.e. a big name actually ceasing to exist, to stand any chance of changing the culture of how clubs are run.

  • Comment number 25.

    The thing is even if Portsmouth disappear completely, which is exceptionally unlikely, who bar the people of Portsmouth would care?

    They are not a "big" club nor a high profile club, bar this story, with big name players. Can anyone outside of Portsmouth name one of their legendary players? Doubt it.

    So I suspect once we get to the end of the season, and Portsmouth are the Football Leagues problem, this will cease to be news worthy. Three new teams will come up and at least two of them are "big" clubs ie. Newcastle and Forest.

    The Premier League will roll on as if nothing has happened and nothing will change.

  • Comment number 26.

    Adam, Keep your mouth shut on this subject. You were not at City when we had fans collecting in blankets for cash to pay players.
    we were less than 12 hours from going bust and now we are a top flight club, at least for the moment. We thank you for helping to get us there, but you have never had to suffer the way us fans did under previous regimes.

  • Comment number 27.

    When will someone comment on the fact that Portsmouth are now bust and previously Southampton when broke. The comment element isn't the south coast it is a certain manager called Redknapp who spent like mad and took a lovely fat salary and benefits !! He didn't bust the clubs by himself but just speeded up their demise.

    Watch out Spurs you could be next! He can bunkrupt any club and then cut and runs with his name somehow presevred.

  • Comment number 28.

    Andie99uk, How can you say that??? He was the one that saved us from folding and had the faith and belief that the club could perform on the pitch, which led to the construction of the KC and our rise up the league! Im guessing the 99 in your name is the year you were born otherwise you'd remember how much of a savior Pearson was/is.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm not a Portsmouth fan first of all. But I am totally disgusted that Peter Storrie has been raking in a reported seven figure salary during the period that Portsmouth have spiralled into the mess they are in now. The man is Chief Executive of a club/business that has effectively run itself into the ground and he appears to have behaved with absolutely zero responsibility. I would imagine that many hard-working people at the club or connected with it will lose their jobs due to what has happened, and I'm not talking about players here. This man is a disgrace. If he was an executive in the public sector he would be getting absolutely slaughtered over what's happened and would have been forced to quit through the media. We've seen that happen many times, but not here. I would imagine that the constant change of ownership has helped him to protect his position as the owner would never have been around long enough to do much about him. I only registered for this service to make this comment as I think it is disgusting and I really feel for the Portsmouth fans who have had to see their club being destroyed from within.

  • Comment number 30.

    Myabe there are 2 solutions

    1. The Premier League and FA are disbanded by Government legislation, to be replaced by a body whose objective is to oversee the "NATIONAL" game returns to being a sport, run yes commercially but not with avarice in mind.

    2. I know thats a pipedream,and maybe the second one is as well, football is allowed to get into such a mess because it knows its customers are like lemmings, its almost akin to jumping off a cliff because you have to be dedicated to YOUR team. What a load of rubbish, football can get away with blue murder because the fans will moan but do they do anything about it, do they hell.

    There is talk of Man U and Liverpool fans co demonstrating against the American owners when the teams meet, now that is the kind of action that those in charge will be apprehensive about, not necessarily the protest but the fact that fans are finally acting as one. Divide and rule is the motto of those in charge, so long as that remains the case football will continue to go to the dogs. The fans dont realise that they do have it in their power to rescue the game but tribal loyalties mean that those same fans wont go down that line, in which case, continue to have the mickey taken out of you. I was a supporter of Liverpool, good and bad, for 25 years but walked away when I realised I was being taken for a ride,others have to do the same but in a concerted and organised way. Over to you FSA ?

  • Comment number 31.

    I blame Abramovich! His money has led to Chelsea spending well beyond their (and anyone else's) means for years. The only reason Chelsea have not gone bust is because Abramovich wrote off £100m's owed to him by Chelsea football club. They have run at a massive loss for years.

    Manchester United make a huge profit every year (one of the few clubs who do), but are crippled by enormous debts resulting from loans the Glazer's were somehow able to take out against the club and Old Trafford.

    These are two classic examples of where the administrators of the game have allowed people to do what they want, and in the long term we could see many clubs going out of business, which is quite incredible when you consider how much money comes into the game through the likes of TV rights, sponsorship etc.

  • Comment number 32.

    #31. At 3:21pm on 27 Feb 2010, Ch2bjs wrote:

    I blame Abramovich! His money has led to Chelsea spending well beyond their (and anyone else's) means for years.


    Regardless of the potentially dubious nature he aquired his money at least Abramovich spent his own money on Chelsea rather than securing huge loans secured against the club.

    Perhaps a solution to this ridiculous clamor for big money in order to compete would be for regional leagues for which there is no relegation. Your division is based upon your location.

    Winners of the regional leagues go forward to make up the Premier League.

  • Comment number 33.

    As a Southampton fan this is a very strange time. There is a strange amount of schadenfreude involved, but also the memory that a year ago, that was us.

    But it has been coming for a long time, and if football couldn't see that, they have been wandering around with a blindfold on for the best part of at least a decade. Too many clubs are running not as businesses and not as sports clubs but in a weird hinterland. Financial accoutability somehow has been lost. Leeds United were the first really big club to suffer when its ambitions were raised to quickly and a business plan that required consistent success came about. A rich owner is, to some extent, a firewall against the worst possible consequences, but what would happen say if Manchester United failed to reach the Champions League? Do they have a sustainable business plan if that were to happen?

    Portsmouth are a club that, it seems to me, tried to grow too quickly, baring in mind they were in administration not much more than a decade ago. Mandaric, Gaydamak, noone who has taken over the club in that time has been super rich. To me it seems that the troubles must go back that far. Was Redknapp ever reined in whilst building his teams? Were the wages being paid at all sustainable (obviously not!) (And to a large extent Southampton suffered the same sorts of problems over a similar time!)

    Fans always bemoan a lack of a rich benefactor. I wonder if sometimes that turns more into a curse than a blessing. Sometimes it seems as if the race for cash entraps some clubs into a relationship that is not beneficial to them.

  • Comment number 34.

    If the non-Hull folk criticising Pearson actually understood the financial situation at the club rather than blindly believing the way the press have reported it then the comments might be valid. As it is if we stay up there's next to no issue. If we go down that situation changes, but then which of the other sides in the relegation battle have a debt of less than £10M and wouldn't need to reduce costs if relegated?

    Even then though, our financial position is irrelevent when what he's saying is that the smaller clubs in the league are no longer going to allow themselves to be pushed around by the Big 4 when it comes to changes being made to commercial deals and similar for the league.

    As for the Hull fan criticising Pearson. He's the one that saved the club from going bust and ran it as a successful business until he'd taken it as far as he could when he looked for a buyer. Throughout his time at the club he consulted with normal fans on a regular basis to get their opinions on things and to make sure the club was heading in the right direction with it's treatment of us. He's also one of the few chairmen I've known come out and admit to his mistakes.

    I'd also say that he has a pretty good idea what he's talking about when he says the smaller clubs can't afford to let the big 4 dictate terms to them and then try to compete on an uneven playing field. He was a director at Leeds up to midway through the season they were in the Champions League. It wouldn't at all surprise me if part of the reason he bought us was because he disagreed with what Ridsdale and co had planned for the following season and wanted to get out before they destroyed the club, we just represented the best opportuity for him at the time.

  • Comment number 35.

    i really feel for pompey but how can the premier league let this happen

  • Comment number 36.

    The Gordon Farquhar article above is an unfortunately all too regular example of bland-o-rama journalism around on the subject of Pompey, and I believe has led the subsequent comments off down a less relevant path.

    Dig beneath the easy to write, 'The little club tried to live the dream' dross in much of the media, and you will find the real story. And ironically, on Five Live on Saturday morning, John Motson asked the fundamental, killer question about Pompey:

    "They had £70m debts, they sold £60m of players. Where's all the money gone?"

    And that is a story not being explored solely by the conspiracy theory gang on the Pompey message boards. Owen Gibson in Saturday's Guardian talks of the "curious links in a twisted chain of ownership". Balram Chainrai sues his former mate Arkady Gaydamak for £14.5m, then, of all the places in the whole, wide world he could invest money to benefit most, he puts a very similar amount into a football club recently owned by his ex-friend's son, Sasha. JUST A COINCIDENCE?

    That is the real story. AND the even bigger story could be that Pompey don't suffer the points deduction if any 'irregularities' drove them over the brink into administration, which could well be the case judging by the Premiership rules.

    Now that would be worth reading about....

  • Comment number 37.

    I can not believe all the fans putting the blame on Peter Storrie.

    Sacha Gaydamak agreed to sell Portsmouth to Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim. It was his decision to sell the club, and not get paid. He agreed to being paid off over time, and that he would have 30 million or more of debt to be repaid later.

    If he had sold to someone that paid him at the time of sale there would have been no problem. When the club went into Administration he was still owed over £ 30 million, along with Balram Chainrai who grabbed the ground in exchange for the loans that he made.

    None of this was in Peter Storrie's control. He never owned the club, he tried his best to run it during the ownership vacuum of the last year, and given the mess round about paying wages, and selling players etc. he could probably have resigned and sued for constructive dismissal. He was the only person that looked like getting a replacement owner.

    Why was Peter Storrie well paid, because the owners thought that he was worth the money. Their choice, and he certainly did a better job than them.

    Now it is clear that the club is no longer a premier league club the fans should buy it from the administrator.

  • Comment number 38.

    Pompey's entry into administration should not really come as that much of a surprise and I have no doubt other teams will follow, possibly even bigger clubs. It's a simple case of mathematics - spend more than you earn and you are in trouble: that applies to us ordinary mortals too.
    I have never understood why football teams believe they should be treated differently from (or it is to?!) other businesses. Surely, given the responsibility they have (or should have) to their fans and local communities makes it even more important that football clubs are run on a finacially sound footing but that, of course, may mean less star players and smaller chances of trophies and how many fans are prepared to put up with that? Fans can and do add pressure to managers and Boards to bring in big players.
    Any wage or transfer limits can only be introduced on a Europe wide level - if the FA or Football Leage or Govt introduced them in the UK only, the game here would suffer. I know some people will think that a good idea and will believe that it would help English players who are somehow being kept down by Johnny Foreigner. I dont subscribe to that view - talent always surfaces - we just dont have a great deal of it in the English game at the moment.
    Let's hope that what has happened to Portsmouth will make other clubs take a long hard look at themselves and their finances. I am lucky, I happen to support a team which is fiscally well run and whose Board and Manager have suffered a lot of criticism in the past for not buying players - thankfully they have not taken notice and carried on being responsible.
    My commiserations to all Portsmouth fans.

  • Comment number 39.

    I hope Portsmouth are liquidated. I hope every team that is mis-managed, heavily in debt and with no income to pay it's costs is liquidated. I hope it happens to at least another 5 or 6 "big name" clubs. This year.

    Lower league clubs have been struggling against this back-drop of obscene wealth for decades. And no-one has ever raised an eyebrow. Now that it's a big name, it's big news. I'm sick of the world thinking that football is only played in the Premier League. The EPL is strangling itself and all those below it.

    How many failed football teams will it take before some we see some action? 2 more EPL clubs? Liverpool? Man City? 8 more lower league teams? What is the cost?

    I'd like to see the FA come with an "acceptable losses" scenario and tell us how many clubs they are prepared to see go under before they do anything.

  • Comment number 40.

    Several comments have alluded to Pompey having only a small fan base and therefore not able to sustain excessive spending. Well its certainly true that ground capacity limits attendence to about 20,000. But Pompey have priced their tickets above that of other premier league clubs. Pompey's cheapest ticket is, I believe £34. There are only two teams (Chelsea and West Ham) whose cheapest tickets are higher than this.

    I'm not pretending that Pompey haven't overspent. Clearly they have. But I guess I want to highlight that a club's income is not necessarily dependent on the number of people who attend the ground each fortnight. A club's revenue is only partly dependent on the gate receipts because of the whopping distortion caused by TV money etc.

    What concerns me is that premiership football players who under-perform can happily remain at a club and take the wages, without any fear of losing their job (until their contract expires and they'll happily move on to another club on a "free transfer"). I've not heard of footballers being sacked, because they are, quite frankly, rubbish at their job ! Managers are sacked all the time, for supposed bad performance, but none of the players. Instead the clubs just put them in the reserves, try to loan them out, or sell them off, on the quiet. But with the advent of transfer windows and agents keen to maximise their signing on bonuses, the balance of power between the club and the individual player has shifted to an unhealthy position where the player rules.

    Ok, so all clubs should be cautious about the terms of the contract they offer new players, but as has already been stated, is it morally right that multi-millionaire footballers are the first in the queue to receive their wages when a club is debt ridden ? Or should they fall down the pecking order behind HMRC, small creditors etc. ? In the current recession, workers in other industries are facing redundancy, wage freezes or pay cuts. Why is it that footballers are immune to these sort of pressures on their "precious contracts" with the club ?

  • Comment number 41.

    this story is about greed and a limited company that appears to have been badly run and probaly worse. Sure the football authorities should have acted sooner but what about the clubs auditors and accountants,if the man in the street could see they were living above thier means so should they! Also, how can the HMRC allow the debt to grow, I certainly would not be allowed the latitude to pay my taxes this late, this is about corporate governance and arrogance that the normal rules did not apply to them.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm amused at this notion that the Premier League does the "bidding" of the big four. Really?

    Last I looked, the Premier League does the bidding of the 20 member clubs... It's not like votes are weighted according to league position.

  • Comment number 43.

    As I said before, the issue of mismanagement could well be wildly missing the point. I believe those who were in power in the last days before administration would LOVE you all to believe that Sacha Gaydamak and Harry Redknapp's expensive squad was something that Pompey could never afford. That's just too simplistic.

    It is rumoured that Gaydamak was offered £70m for Pompey not long after the FA Cup win. If he had been in a 'financial sweat', I suspect he would have quit while he was ahead. He didn't. Fast forward to to just over a year later, and suddenly there is £60-£70m debt, even though Pompey sold £60m/£70m of players! How could that have happened?

    If you want to discover WHAT REALLY could have happened read Colin Farmery's article, 'Why Pompey might, just might, have a case for keeping their nine points' at

    Or you could just swallow the 'they tried to live the dream' theory...

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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