Portsmouth Football Club have been granted a minor stay of execution by the English High Court today as the winners of the 2008 FA Cup were given one more week to come up with the funds required to pay off an outstanding tax bill of £11.5m. The club entered the courts in a bid to save its 112 year existence after eleventh hour talks with her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs failed last night. The taxman, who has branded the club inslovent, is seeking a winding up order leading to liquidation of the club.
The Premier League’s bottom club have been in trouble for quite a while now and have seen a seemingly endless string of owners make their way through their boardroom in the past few years. Its newest owner, the fourth of this season alone, Balram Chainrai, made a plea to the courts this morning for the club to be granted more time to try find new investors and claimed that two serious offers of investment were on the table.
What’s important to note in this case, is that unlike recent cases where clubs have gone into administration, the situation facing Portsmouth is full liquidation, which would see the complete end of the club’s existence and the termination of all staff and player’s, contracts. If this was to happen, it would be the first time a Premier League club was to go under and it is said that up to 600 jobs could be lost if the worst was to occur.
Current manager Avram Grant spoke on behalf of the club by making a heartfelt plea stating that football “is not a clear business where there are no feelings – there are feelings of fans, players and my own. There are problems, but football is more than this.” He added: “This club needs to stay alive. That is more important than football. It is 112 years old.”
Currently struggling to pay its staff, club officials have even been forced to take down its official website due their inability to afford its running costs.
Over the past season, the club has been forced to sell their best players as a desperate means to save itself. The high flying squad of a number of seasons ago is hardly recognisable anymore. High profile exits have included Glen Johnson, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Sulley Muntari, Niko Kranjcar, Lassana Diarra and Sol Campbell, amongst others. Most recently, in-form goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and centre-half Younes Kaboul have also left the sea siders. Despite these sales however, the club continues to struggle financially.
Pompey continue to fight on until the death on all fronts however, including the Premier League, where a spirited display saw them fight back against Sunderland to claim a point in the dying minutes of last night’s game thanks to an Aruna Dindane headed goal. Portsmouth are a club steeped in history and boast some of the best fans in the whole football league. It would be a sad day for all if they were to cease existence. Critically, it might also pave the way for similar styled fold-ups of other large clubs, with many reports suggesting that certain other Premier League clubs have equally as poor financial situations.
The financial pressures present within football at the moment are huge. Clubs strive for success and often take huge gambles as a means to achieve it. Some might say that up until now, Portsmouths’s gambles have paid off, with the club famously lifting the FA Cup trophy less than two years ago and experiencing European football for the first time last season as a result. Their victory over Cardiff City that day marks one of the finest occasions in their history.
As a sad marker to how quickly sporting fortunes can change, both clubs share the same battleground once more today, except this time it is far from the hallowed turf of Wembley. Cardiff City, along with Southend United enter the same court to face similar procedings to those of Portsmouth once the taxman has finished looking for his pound of flesh from the Blue Army. I’m sure all in the extended football community wish these clubs all the best.