Pompey should have known the writs would hit the fan
F ear not Liverpool fans, Stan Collymore has a plan. I must admit I always thought he was a moron, but when I heard last week of his proposed solution to the complex financial worries of his former club, I was forced to think again.
It was of the three-point variety, and relatively straight forward, which I suppose the best plans ought to be. Soon the club's problems on and off the field would be a thing of the past. The full, unedited version is this -- find new owners, build a state-of-the-art stadium, and invest £100m in the playing squad. Jesus, the man's a genius.
It was another week of damaging revelations about the financial goings-on in the Premier League. Portsmouth's administrator Andrew Andronikou released figures which expose the full extent of the shameful mismanagement of the club. Having avoided a winding-up order from the taxman earlier this year, they owe £119m to creditors ranging from millionaire former players to the local Boy Scouts Association. According to League rules, the players will be paid in full, while the Scouts, and all non-football creditors, won't be nearly as lucky. Most will have to settle for payment in the region of less than a quarter of what they are owed.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward, if more than a little unfair. If this wasn't the case, clubs could gain a sporting advantage from using players they have no intention of paying for. Therefore, the rule was introduced to ensure clubs and players ('football creditors') are never left short if clubs place themselves into administration. This will please the clubs owed a total of over £17m, and the players owed more than £5m, but everyone else will have to settle for getting shafted.
They owe the council and local schools for the use of training facilities. They owe medical firms and catering companies for looking after their players. They even owe money to the Portsmouth Supporters Club. That they can mismanage their finances in this way is an embarrassment to all involved, and though the nine-point deduction is unlikely to affect their final league position in any way, the English FA's decision in relation to their involvement in Europe next year is exactly what the club deserves.
It was confirmed last week they would not be allowed to enter the European competitions next year despite reaching the FA Cup final. With opponents Chelsea already in next season's Champions League, Portsmouth should have been guaranteed a place in the Europa League. However, they failed to successfully apply for a licence from UEFA to play in the competition due to their financial difficulties, meaning the place will be offered to the club that finishes seventh in the league instead.
While most clubs have ideas of how to improve their squads for the coming season, Andronikou sent a fax to all other clubs on Friday saying every Portsmouth player was available for sale. He is currently re-negotiating the contracts of half a dozen players in order to have them available to play in next month's Cup final, as they cannot meet the bonus payments due under existing agreements. Goalkeeper David James, for example, waived his right to another year in his contract, realising the club were in no position to afford it. It's also likely he can't wait to get out of there anyway.
Despite all this, manager Avram Grant says he doesn't understand why the Europa League is now beyond them, and used Friday's press briefing to whinge and complain in a way even Arsene Wenger would be proud of. That he cannot see the logic behind the decision beggars belief. While he has carried himself with relative dignity through what has been a difficult season, his decision to accuse the Premier
League of becoming a "pain in the arses" of everyone connected to his club was ludicrous. He was firm in his assertion that the players, coaching staff and supporters should not be punished for how things have gone this season. When asked who should be, he had a lot less to say.
While everyone in football wants to be successful, there is a huge responsibility on those running clubs to resist over-spending in order to achieve it.
Hull City, for example, lost £10m in the year they got promoted to the Premier League, but will lose over £21m this season alone if they get relegated. Even if they stay up, which they won't, they still stand to lose over £15m. Appearing in their second FA Cup final in three years is an impressive feat by Portsmouth, but the future of the club was put at risk in achieving it.
Most supporters link transfer expenditure to increased chances of success on the field, so encourage it at every opportunity. However, without sufficient understanding of the realities of club finances, they should be widely ignored wherever possible.
The simple fact is this -- spending considerably more than you earn over a prolonged period of time can only end in one way. I'd say even Stan Collymore could understand that.