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LFC

Portsmouth's Potential Demise Spells Trouble For Other Premier League Clubs

Portsmouth Fans at the FA Cup Final Portsmouth's Potential Demise Spells Trouble For Other Premier League Clubs

  • The Danger isn’t just Administration, it’s Liquidation.
  • £22m-£26m required to see out season.

As fans of football, we never want there to be less football clubs around. As simple as that sounds, it makes perfect sense to leave it at that. The Premier League that we all love, follow and obsess over stands in line for a pretty embarrassing black eye if they can’t implement some form of lifeline to the South Coast club who stand literally inches from no longer existing.

To lament over the club’s financial woes and ownership issues, the Premier League’s Fit and Proper Test, or the mismanagement of funds, wages, transfers and bonuses, would easily become redundant. At this point in the play, the characters have all been developed, the heroes and villains have all been identified and the red herrings have come and gone with no lasting effect on the conclusion.

The existence or dissolution of the 2008 FA Cup Champions hangs on a knife edge. As the Premier League scramble their resources in hopes of securing the future of such a storied club, 19 other top-flight teams watch with a weary eye on the developments. Some watching with an anxious tension as they determine how to make up a point loss, others watch with an excited disposition as they could take a step closer in the standings of their rivals.

The Premier League led by Chief Executive Richard Scudamore will ask rival teams of Portsmouth if they disapprove in Portsmouth receiving an advance of their parachute payment in order to pay an immediate payment to the taxman. While the impending relegation of Portsmouth will be considered a minor victory in the grand scheme of the club surviving, relegation-fighting clubs close to Pompey in the table may cry foul. The other 19 Premier League clubs all have at least something at stake if Pompey cease to exist. If the unthinkable were to happen in the world’s richest league, any results, points gained, or even goals scored would be wiped out.

At the top of the table, Chelsea would lose 3 points while title defending and title chasing Manchester United would lose 6. Wayne Rooney, the versatile English striker who’s having the season of his life thus far would stand to lose credit for 4 goals in pursuit of his first golden boot award.

The other teams who have played Portsmouth twice resulting in both games won and also losing out on 6 points are: Arsenal, Manchester City, and Fulham. West Ham United would lose 4 points and Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton, Everton, Tottenham, Stoke City and Blackburn would lose 3. Sunderland would lose 2 points and Hull City would lose 1. Liverpool, Wigan, Burnley and Wolves points would be unaffected.

To me, it seems Scudamore has made it abundantly clear that Portsmouth are receiving no special treatment in their fight for survival. He’s only advancing the funds that they were due anyway in anticipation that they’ll see out their remaining fixtures for the 2009-2010 season and avoid ridicule from opponents of the Premier League the world over. There’s still uncertainty in the survival of Portsmouth Football Club, but what’s certain is that other Premier League clubs now have vested interest in Portsmouth’s liquidation.

I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that in no way, shape or form do I want Portsmouth to vanish. As an American supporter of one of the top 4 teams in England, the affections I have for the lowly south coast club are a washing of my sins of sorts. The current crop of Portsmouth players have been nothing short of brave hearts in recent weeks as they continue to battle on the field and look to be playing as if they’re in the thick of the title race. The results haven’t been in Pompey’s favor in recent matches, but the performances of the players have been something to admire. The supporters of Portsmouth deserve better. They’re the innocent children in this drama of divorced, squabbling parents.

Even though other Premier Clubs have something to lose or gain, the ultimate fate of Pompey is still unknown. What is known is that football, the Premier League and England will lose something special and will need to take a step back in the future to assure a club in the world’s richest league never dies again.

Author’s Note: Bloody Confused! A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer comes highly recommended. It follows Portsmouth through a recent season while the author falls in love with the charm of Pompey.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Portsmouth's Potential Demise Spells Trouble For Other Premier League Clubs

  1. RaiderRich says:

    Apologies for being the bearer of bad news, but consider the following statistics:

    There are 32 pro football teams in the NFL. The latest population estimates put the U.S. at about 309 million people. That’s about one team for every 9.6 million people.

    There are 94 pro teams in the Premier League and Football League (and a few Conference clubs that still count themselves as professional), for an English population of, at latest estimate, 52 million. That’s roughly one pro team team for every 553,192 people.

    What I’m trying to say is, with player wages and transfer fees being what they are, even if every club was managed correctly, there are just too many clubs for the English sports market to sustain. Throw in mismanagement and ungodly levels of debt (and all the chairmen regardless of whether they are English or foreign are guilty of this), and a revenue agency that has lost all tolerance for soccer clubs paying them last, and it’s an unsustainable situation.

    Unfortunately, this means your club may fold or be wound up and never come back. Sucks for you, but that’s business.

    It may mean clubs have to merge. You may not like the concept of Nottingham Forest and Notts County one day being “Nottingham United”, but it’s pretty clear the Nottingham area can’t sustain more than one team for much longer. You may not like the concept of one “Hampshire United” team for both Southampton and Portsmouth, but considering both clubs are bankrupt, it’s either one sustainable club for the whole county or none. Sucks for you, but that’s business.

    The reality is the fat has to be cut somewhere folks. It’s going to be random. It’s not going to make any sense who survives and who goes into administration. And it’s going to be very, very painful. But, English soccer will be better for it.

    • AtlantaPompey says:

      The collective, top-down nature of American sports means that the financial picture is completely different. Clubs may relocate, but no club has gone out of business in quite a while.

      “Hampshire United” would never happen. Southampton is doing just fine financially with their new owner. Pompey will do the same, if they continue to exist. I’m not optimistic.

      • RaiderRich says:

        So what are you going to do when Portsmouth folds?

        • AtlantaPompey says:

          I don’t think they will, although I’ll admit that it is still a distinct possibility. I don’t think the league will allow that to happen.

          However, if it does, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’m still a fan of the game, so I’ll still watch, but won’t necessarily have a rooting interest. Or, maybe I’ll put my allegiance up for sale on eBay.

    • MNUfan1991 says:

      Raider,
      Manchester United sells more jerseys than all NFL teams, COMBINED.
      The Premier League is a true global pursuit. There are many more EPL fans in the Far East than there are NFL fans here. Unfortunately the same can’t be said the other way around.
      I have a soft spot for Pompey, despite them knocking out my beloved United in 2008 FA cup. I fully agree with Jesse that the current Pompey players are nothing short of heroic. Sink or swim, I hope they make their way back to the PL in due order.

      • ovalball says:

        “Manchester United sells more jerseys than all NFL teams, COMBINED.”

        Your source, please?

      • RaiderRich says:

        And how much debt is MU in again?

        • MNUfan1991 says:

          And your point is?
          United is in this kind of debt not because of its operations, but the leveraged Glazer takeover. Without this “mortgage” United would have been debt-free.
          If you want to include all the teams from PL down to League 2, you would have to add all the NFL, arena football (are they still around?), and the big NCAA teams together–yes I see the major NCAA teams “pros”. And this is only about the dominant sports in their respective countries. As you know football is a lot more dominant in the UK than pigskin is here. You probably would have to throw in MLB and the minor league to make a comparable discussion.

      • Bob says:

        Pompey would still be adrift at the bottom without the points deduction, and that’s not because Mr Tattooed Fuckwit’s wig has interfered with crosses into the box, it’s not because ‘poor old Pompey’ have been hard done by, it’s not because decisions during the games have gone against them – it’s because they’re shit.

        Being crap does not = being brave.

    • Jon says:

      Raider,

      One small problem with your numerical analysis is that you have restricted the “fan base” of the teams to the population of the country. Not only is this too simplistic because the population is not spread homogenously throughout either country (Buffalo does not have 9.6 million fans living in its immediate area, whereas either New York team has more than that), but both leagues depend massively on marketing outside of their home countries.

      Manchester United does not do so well financially because of its “553,192 per capita fans”. It has massive turnover because it has a worldwide fan base that it has cultivated with millions and millions of dollars in merchandise and television revenue.

      I agree with the general tenor you argument that there is not sufficient population base to support so many clubs *at the competitive level required* when compared to those who have much larger revenue streams to draw on aside from their local fans. I think your math is far oversimplified though.

      Cheers,

      Jon

  2. Tom Hingley says:

    Raider, I think you are wrong. Managed properly, there are room for 92+ professional football teams in England. As long as each club spend within its means. The comparision with NFL is a bad one because of the vast differences in sporting culture between the countries. Every town has a football club here, and there is no reason why that doesn’t work.

    My main point is that Pompey, as sad as it is, should get absolutely no special treatment. The key issue is that they have stayed in the PL, won the FA Cup, and signed players at the expense of other teams. All this, despite knowing they could not afford it. Why should they be allowed to take such an advantage and then just be bailed out?

    It is sad, but maybe the Pompey situation will be positive in so much as it encourages clubs to get their affairs in order.

    • RaiderRich says:

      “Managed properly, there are room for 92+ professional football teams in England.”

      Managed properly, there aren’t room for 92+ clubs of any sport in any country at the current average soccer wages and transfer fees. It’s called real-word economics. If they had the means to support this system, why are so many clubs in heavy debt?

      And if this crisis has proven anything, there aren’t 92+ competent ownership groups.

      “As long as each club spend within its means.”

      If they all had access to the same revenue pool, this would work. As it stands ,”spending within its means” translates to “lower division clubs that watch their finances in effect become farm teams for larger clubs.”

      “The comparision with NFL is a bad one because of the vast differences in sporting culture between the countries.”

      In other words, “soccer’s different, Americans can piss off” and blah blah blah… come back when you have a real, counter-argument.

      Whether you want to stick your head in the sand and pretend otherwise, or whether you want to face up to reality, all sports are big business whether it’s the NFL, the NCAA, English soccer, or the Olympics.

      The NFL makes more money having a primary audience in one country, (albeit a very large one) than the Premier League does with it’s global reach. Despite a bad economy, none of the NFL teams, not even Buffalo or Jacksonville, are in danger of bankruptcy. The NFL has effectively capped its membership at 32 teams, because they know they can’t sustain having any more and keep all the teams competitive. Perhaps there are lessons to be gleaned from the NFL if one were willing to think outside one’s cultural box, but clearly you aren’t.

      “Every town has a football club here, and there is no reason why that doesn’t work.”
      There is a big reason why it doesn’t work: increasing player salaries.
      Players are smarter and more business-savvy than a generation ago, plus the Bosman case has tilted the playing field more in the players’ favor. If a club won’t offer a wage the player wants, he has an agent who can find one that will, and there’s always one that will. Thus, salaries have gone up across the board, and clubs can’t hold them down.

      “My main point is that Pompey, as sad as it is, should get absolutely no special treatment. The key issue is that they have stayed in the PL, won the FA Cup, and signed players at the expense of other teams. All this, despite knowing they could not afford it. Why should they be allowed to take such an advantage and then just be bailed out?”
      Fine, they get no special treatment, but you need to recognize they’re a symptom of a larger problem. Almost all the Premier League clubs are in debt, and HMRC is going after several clubs in the Football League at the same time they’re going after Pompey.
      Plus, Portsmouth didn’t set out to rack up these debts specifically to gain an advantage. They made the decision to rack up these debts to keep up with the other PL teams, who are also going into debt.

      • Tom Hingley says:

        You aren’t understanding that some teams are always going to be naturally smaller than others.

        Every club has a level at which it can exist comfortably. The problems at the moment are caused by some teams literally gambling with their future by trying to buy success.

        Let’s take a random small club, say Walsall. They get 5000 supporters a week, and pay accordingly. You seem to be lumping all clubs together and saying all clubs HAVE to pay the crazy salaries. They don’t. Yes players are savvy, but thanks to supply and demand, there will always be enough players for clubs.The system doesn’t mean clubs can’t climb the ladder through youth investment and good management though. They produce players, sell them on, invest that money wisely and grow organically. Call it ‘farming’ if you will.

        The comparison with the NFL is bad because it is franchise based, meaning clubs are relatively similar sized (because that is how the authorities designed it). Also it isn’t a ladder system. Your whole outlook seems EPL dominated, you need to see the Premier League as just the top division of a 4 league system.

        • RaiderRich says:

          Walsall may not try to spend, but Walsall has absolutely no serious shot at an FA Cup or Europe either. The town itself is withing driving distance of Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and Aston Villa, all of whom are seriously trying to compete (although Wolverhampton is failing at the moment, but they’re trying), plus West Bromwich Albion, which was in the PL last year and stands a good chance to get back there. Why watch a team that’s not trying when there are 4 that are?

          • Tom Hingley says:

            “Why watch a team that’s not trying when there are 4 that are? ”

            With all due respect, I think this point proves you don’t fully appreciate the nature of being a football fan.

            Firstly, proper fans support a team regardless of their league position and size. Your team finds you, it is usually due to location, family etc, can be any number of reasons.

            You are thinking too insular with regards to the EPL. Yes Walsall are nowhere near the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean supporting them is any less exciting, frustrating or emotional. They have their own challenges – promotion, avoidance of relegation etc, at their own levels. On a match by match basis, their supporters experience the same levels of emotion that a Man Utd supporter does. That ultimately is why small clubs do exist, and why they will continue to exist.

          • RaiderRich says:

            Well, then if Walsall doesn’t care to compete and it’s supposed to be satisfied with the artificial awards of promotion and avoiding relegation created by the system, then Pompey really didn’t win the FA cup “at their expense”, did they? You can’t have it both ways.

  3. Tom Hingley says:

    Just to expand. Yep, Pompey and Southampton are both broke. But that doesn’t mean the Hampshire area cannot support two teams. Far from it. It is just a coincidence that both clubs have suffered from horrible financial mismanagement.

    I 100% agree that English football needs to learn some lessons, but more in the form of teams spending what they can afford, as opposed to the neccessity to merge.

    • RaiderRich says:

      “Yep, Pompey and Southampton are both broke. But that doesn’t mean the Hampshire area cannot support two teams.”

      You’re arguing out of emotion and not reality

      • Tom Hingley says:

        I’m really not. I feel you are arguing from a position of a lack of understanding of football and the UK. The Hampshire area can definitely cope with more than 2 teams!

        The crux of the matter is the reason these two teams are broke is NOT because of location and proximity, but sheer crappy management.

        There are loads of other locations that support far more teams at closer proximity. How does the West Midlands support Villa, Blues, Wolves, WBA, Coventry, and Walsall? All (barring a slight unrelated hiccup at Coventry) financially sound.

        Same argument can be applied to the North West, North East, East Anglia, London etc.

        You are just jumping on the coincidental Hampshire issue and turning it into something it really isn’t!

        • RaiderRich says:

          “I feel you are arguing from a position of a lack of understanding of football and the UK.”

          Well, i’m sorry I didn’t grow up with your idealized and outdated notion of UK soccer. The Paul Scholes who will stay with a club regardless of their station don’t exist anymore. The notion of always pulling for the local team doesn’t exist, even in your country. I doubt very seriously that every fan that shows up at Old Trafford is even from Greater Manchester anymore.

          Maybe I didn’t grow up with football in the UK, but I am a soccer fan. I’ve seen the top level division in my country collapse once in my lifetime because of the exact same stuff that’s going on right now in England. But we learned from that, which is why MLS has the tight salary controls it does. MLS had the good sense to prune Miami and Tampa Bay a few years ago when they weren’t hacking it financially. Not deducted points, folded the teams.

          It doesn’t matter how they do it, whether it’s by merging clubs or by letting them die, it doesn’t change that there are too many professional teams for the size country England is and some of them need to go.

          I came to English soccer when I did, and I can’t change that. Maybe that means I see the game’s problems better than you who are blinded by tradition and nostalgia.

          You don’t want to listen to me because I’m an American, fine. Don’t disguise your snobbery by saying I “don’t get it”

          • Tom Hingley says:

            You have got me all wrong, we are having a debate but I certainly mean no disrespect.

            Without going into all your points, it is worth mentioning that tradition and nostalgia DO need to be taken into account.

      • RobG says:

        The “reality” is that football clubs almost never disappear.

        As of the 2007-2008 season, of the eighty- eight teams which made up the Football League in 1923, eighty-five still exist (97%). Seventy five remained in the top four divisions. A majority, forty-eight clubs were in the same division they occupied in 1923. Only nine were more than two divisions away from their position in 1923.

        There are more fans of, and more money involved with English football today than there ever has been. With relegation, teams that perform or are managed badly simply sink to the level their fan base can sustain.

        Raider seems to assume that unless you are competing for the FA Cup or the EPL title every year your team doesn’t matter. This is rubbish. Lower division clubs continue to draw strong support and play good football. Local and historic rivalries provide all the motivation many fans want or need, and the possibility of promotion is a dream that begins anew every season.

        To put this in an American perspective: The Boston Red Sox didn’t won only 4 AL pennants, and no World Series titles, over an 86 year period. Did this mean their fans quit coming to watch them play the Yankees? Mississippi State will probably never win the NCAA Football national championship, but they pack the house with 55,000+ fans for seven Saturdays a year.

        English football as a whole is in the best shape it has ever been. There have always been incompetent owners, and bankruptcy, and relegation. In the end, the clubs almost NEVER disappear. They just get reinvented as a lower league club or get bought by new owners.

        • Tom Hingley says:

          I couldn’t put it any better Rob.

          As a Wolves fan, the thrill of promotion last year easily matched the feelings a Man Utd fan has winning the EPL. Success is relative.

        • RaiderRich says:

          “As of the 2007-2008 season, of the eighty- eight teams which made up the Football League in 1923, eighty-five still exist (97%). Seventy five remained in the top four divisions. A majority, forty-eight clubs were in the same division they occupied in 1923. Only nine were more than two divisions away from their position in 1923.”

          In 1923, players didn’t cost you the GDP of a small country either

          “To put this in an American perspective: The Boston Red Sox didn’t won only 4 AL pennants, and no World Series titles, over an 86 year period. Did this mean their fans quit coming to watch them play the Yankees?”

          1) Even in those 86 years, they were still one of the top teams in the AL. The Yankees were just so dominant that other teams rarely got a shot

          2) The Red Sox aren’t in piles of debt, despite having a stadium that has all the comforts of Fratton Park

          3) Despite the “national pastime” label, there’s only 4 cities that really care about baseball. For the Nice

          “Mississippi State will probably never win the NCAA Football national championship, but they pack the house with 55,000+ fans for seven Saturdays a year.”

          College football has those bowl games too, which are just as much an artificial

          “English football as a whole is in the best shape it has ever been.”

          Yes, it’s in such good shape that all the clubs are in debt.

          “In the end, the clubs almost NEVER disappear. They just get reinvented as a lower league club or get bought by new owners.”

          Then the FA needs to find a way to stop these clubs from coming back or exercise some ownership controls.

          And by the way, the “fit and proper” test is a joke.

          • RaiderRich says:

            Crap… hit reply before i finished my thoughts…

            First thing I meant to say is that for the rest of the country outside NYC, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis, baseball is a nice diversion for the time in between the NBA Finals until NFL training camps

            Also RE: College bowl games, if there’s any bigger artificial accomplishment in sports than promotion or relegation, it’s those freaking bowl games. Unfortunately colleges are run by politically correct ivory tower types who believe everyone deserves a medal so we’ll never get a playoff system

  4. DB says:

    If you were to take into account the NFL, the MLB, the NHL, MLS, and the NBA, especially as many are concentrated in major cities (New York, Chicago, LA), you would find the same thing. A fan could support the Chicago Blackhawks one night and the Chicago Bulls the next. The difference between American league sports is that every American league has a system to redistribute wealth to each individual club. There are no relegations. In theory, the Yankees make as much money on a game vs the Kansas City Royals as the Royals do. The difference is the American clubs don’t really compete globally, with the exception of MLS.

  5. Cameron says:

    This was a good read all the comments :).

  6. Patrick says:

    Their are wayyy too many differences in american sports to compare them to the EPL system. I dont understand why people are even trying to make comparisons. American sports teams have been in just as bad of financial problems as Pompey. However, the difference being like with the old Montreal Expos, they had the league/owners bail the team out and move it. The EPL isn’t exactly setup for revenu sharing.

    With that being said and EPL being more capitalistic it can be drawn that its purely from poor business decisions. Teams/management thinking they can expand faster than they can without the solid financial backing they need. Thus, Pompey not being able to pay players, pay other teams the money they owe, and possibly being wiped off the map.

    This is a prime example on why I believe a lot of people from England disdain foreigners buying up their clubs. Owners come in looking for a quick buck, get in over their heads, than when it starts going down the owners try selling so they don’t have to be around for the ‘blow back’. Not to mention what it does to the fans of said clubs when they see their clubs go through this.

    • RaiderRich says:

      1) As bad as the Expos were, they never had tax issues and never went into bankrupcy court.

      2) The Expos were a Canadian team, not an American team. However, playing in a U.S. league, they suffered from the Canadian dollar being weak against the American dollar and having to pay American equivalent wages. (This was also a period when a number of NHL franchise moved south also) Last I checked, Portsmouth doesn’t operate under a different, weaker currency than the rest of the Premier League.

      3) Again, baseball isn’t near the popularity in the U.S. that soccer is in England. The NFL is a better comparison in terms of the most popular sports in each country.

      • Patrick says:

        1) Expos couldn’t afford the salaries of the new players they brought it. They failed to sign TV contracts with most major US broadcasters. They couldn’t get public money for a new stadium. They had attendance problems and for the most part the last 10 years of their existance they were dipping well below 10,000 fans per game which was far from paying the bills. The upper level teams were actually keeping the Expos afloat. “The weak canadian dollar” hurt them in the 80′s not so much in the 90′s. The NHL teams were moving because of financial problems and the outlook of more money from the US markets. Teams were being mismanaged and hurting from a lack of public funding that American teams normally get.
        2) NFL is soo diffent with fundamentals,supporting population, economics, how teams acquire players, how teams can move from city to city than move back to previous city, and the list can go on. In my eyes the 2 leagues have no compaisons at all other than the NFL is one of the most popular sports in America (NASCAR is supprisingly #1 spectator sport) and the EPL is the most popular in the UK.

        You have to think outside the US sports world box when thinking about the EPL, its run totally different than any US sport. You can’t think along the lines of what the Red Sox or Cowboys or anyone has done in comparison to Pompey or Leeds or New Castle.

  7. Football towns and citys can support the clubs they have, they have done so for over 100 years. The 90+ clubs in the league didn’t just pop up in the last 5 years they have been there for a century and longer.
    The reason these clubs are getting into trouble now is that the pressure to move up the table or move up in the leagues is such that clubs are spending more than they can afford. As for man utd, that club was debt free before the 2 americans took over. It could afford to buy big money players and pay big wages while staying debt free. The glaziers bought it on a credit card and the money they borrowed has huge interest £47,000 a second i heard which the club is paying. No wonder the man utd fans are pissed, if i was one i would want to string them up. That’s why the club is in the shit now.

  8. AtlantaPompey says:

    I would rather see Pompey in League One or League Two, debt-free, and playing attractive, entertaining football than worrying about qualifying for Europe while running up huge debts and playing boring, 10-men-behind-the-ball matches. The run-up to the FA Cup win was some of the worst football I’ve ever forced myself to watch. We played scared. We played so defensively it was painful to watch at times.

    For me, and for others who love this game, it’s not about who we play. It’s not about the so-called stature of our club. It’s not about how many supporters supposedly love our club in Singapore or Peru or Atlanta, Georgia. It’s about the club representing the city, the people, and themselves to the best of their ability. That includes the club being run solvent.

    Despite the fact that I threw the remote across the room(it landed on the love seat and scared the crap out of my dog) when we gave up the second half stoppage time goal to Stoke, I have never been prouder of Pompey than in the last couple of months. They are showing a fight and a determination and a pride that most other clubs in the world never experience. They may not play another game after March 1st, but at least they went out swinging. For that alone, they deserve applause. For that alone, Avram Grant should be lauded rather than ridiculed. It wouldn’t hurt if he would smile every now and then, though.

    Play Up Pompey!!!
    Pompey Play Up!!!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Pompey has been a pleasure to watch all season. A very attacking and positive side but they just can’t seem to win, which is so frustrating.

      Against Stoke, they deserved a draw, which is no bad result (just ask Manchester City).

      Personally, I believe Avram Grant is doing an excellent job but so too was Paul Hart who had the team playing as well as they are now. It’s been a very strange season for Pompey to say the least.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • ovalball says:

      On Avram Grant…”It wouldn’t hurt if he would smile every now and then, though.”

      Does anyone have any proof that this is actually possible? I wonder if Avram is cosmically related to Joe Btfsplk.

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