Is there a worse chairman in the history of the Premiership than Sulaiman Al-Fahim? I’m struggling to think of anyone who has misled, misinformed and treated the supporters of a club so clearly as Al-Fahim has in his 8 month relationship with Portsmouth. Today the HM Revenue & Customs have issues a winding up order against Portsmouth F.C. which will see the club declared bankrupt unless all debts can be settled by February
Now, for me, the Premiership board have to take a long look at themselves over this situation. They allowed a man who clearly didn’t have the financial muscle to own a Premiership club to purchase it and then sell 90% within 6 weeks to Ali al-Faraj who promised to invest significant sums that have still to materialise. Where is all the money going at Portsmouth?
So here we have a situation where the 2008 F.A. Cup winners are facing going under in 6 weeks. It is an absolute disgrace that this situation has come about and the club have just commented on this story, wholly denying the accusations but does anyone believe them anymore? The club are banned from signing anyone until the footballing debts are settled, the ground needs major redevelopment or a new ground and now the tax man has come knocking.
Going into administration would see them hit with a 10 point deduction immediately and would seal relegation for them. Selling players would leave them weaker than they currently are and it would seem highly unlikely that anyone can step in to bail them out financially. It’s a nightmare situation that has echoes of the crisis which engulfed the club in 1999 when Milan Mandaric rode to the rescue.
Yet football has changed immeasurable in the ten years since that crisis. Administration now means a points deduction and yet, when al-Faraj bought his 90% of the club in October, the debt to the Inland Revenue was claimed to have been settled. It now seems that once again, it wasn’t true and with the amount supposedly £2 million, where did that go? The statement from the club claims that they’ve paid £9.7 million but the HMRC have still sought a winding up order. Who’s telling the truth here?
Mandaric has actually stated just before Christmas that he wouldn’t be buying Portsmouth back which would be bad news for anyone hoping to see him return to the Solent. Yet the club has been hemorrhaging money for the last 3 seasons, losing over £40 million up to the end of the 2007-2008 season. Since then, the club have sold over £80 million of talent, but still owe money to Chelsea, Watford and Rennes. The next allotted amount of TV revenue, which is £7 million could be diverted to those three clubs but it still wouldn’t cover all the outstanding monies.
The monthly wage bill at Fratton Park is £1.8 million and the only other option is to sell playing assets to try and keep going, but the wages have bounced twice already this season and with everyone aware of Portsmouths situation, they will do well to receive an actual value for those players that matches what they need. All in all, it’s a dire situation and there seems no light at the end of the tunnel for Portsmouths long suffering fans. As always these days at Pompey, they are the last to know anything. I could do a better job than the current incumbents at Fratton Park and I suspect most Portsmouth fans could.