The death chimes are sounding louder and louder for Pompey

July 25, 2012 in League 1

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“The fat lady has been singing for so long now she is practically anorexic”, said one Portsmouth fan on a fan forum yesterday. It summed up the feeling of inevitability about yesterday’s announcement that Portsmouth Football Club will close on August 10th, unless the last seven contracted players are transferred or accept a large pay cut. The problem we have is that very few actually believe that it will actually happen; therefore the players in question appear to be holding out for as long as possible in order to guarantee they receive what they are contractually owed. How many times have we heard of clubs being given winding up orders by HMRC? It seems to happen on a monthly basis, but no league clubs are ever liquidated.

Football clubs simply do not operate in the same world as other businesses. Often operated at a loss, football clubs are seemingly run on expectations of success. If high contracts are given without relegation pay cut clauses, like in Portsmouth’s case, you are definitely playing with fire. A few non-league clubs have been closed and started again from the bottom (Chester City, Rushden and Diamonds), but the Football League is not quick on the trigger finger in closing clubs. The fact that the Football League hasn’t done an SPL style “Club 12” fixture list for Portsmouth shows you how likely they believe the team to fold.

Two days ago, a group of Portsmouth fans waited outside the training ground in an attempt to give each of the seven contracted players a letter explaining what will happen should they continue to demand to see out their contracts. The two players that appear to be most in the firing line are Tal Ben Haim and Kanu; a figure estimated to be around £3m each is owed to each of them. There are essentially two lines of thinking with regards to this situation. One way of thinking is that the players probably aren’t exactly poor; they could afford to take a pay cut or waive part of their contracts in order to save a club so that the club that was there before them can be there after them. The other way of thinking is that these players have contracts. Contracts are there so you are legally covered should a company try not to pay you. These players didn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head, they simply signed the contract they were given. Should they lose out on millions due to bad financial planning by their bosses?

Personally, it’s hard to see Portsmouth being liquidated. The Football league simply has too much to lose should Portsmouth cease to exist. However, that is not to say Portsmouth will survive as a footballing force. They are currently conducting their pre-season training with only trialists, mostly garnered from non-league, and it appears unlikely that they will survive the season in League 1. Portsmouth could well turn out to be the next Luton, quickly plummeting through the leagues until they find their level at Conference level. One thing that is sure at the moment, it must be great to be a Southampton fan.