The Destruction Of Portsmouth Football Club

It’s Pompey chimes of Wembley joy, 69 years on from their last FA Cup final. This famous old club have at last another final to celebrate.”

The 2007-2008 season was the pinnacle for Portsmouth Football Club, a 1-0 win away to Manchester United in the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup meant there was something special on the cards for the club. A guaranteed date in the New Wembley Stadium beckoned and a Kanu goal against West Brom meant dreamland, the FA Cup final.

Kanu also scored the winner in the final against Cardiff, his first half goal wasn’t the most orthodox but it found its way into the back of the net.

Dreamland for Pompey yet much like it’s near namesake Pompeii almighty destruction was soon to follow.

The end of the 2009/10 Premier League season saw the Fratton Park Natives at the foot of the table, going into administration in February 2010 meant they faced a nine point deduction.

But why was a team who had held AC Milan to a 2-2 draw in the Uefa Cup only three months prior now financially drained and in all round despair?

In 2006, Sacha Gaydamak took over the club and promised to invest in the club and he did, nearly £66m invested in players between his takeover and his departure.

Household names were common in Fratton Park, John Utaka, Sulley Muntari, Glen Johnson, Jermaine Defoe, club record signing Peter Crouch; the list goes on.

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At £11 million, Peter Crouch was Portsmouth’s record signing when he arrived at the Fratton Park club.

Portsmouth however were funding these transfers from loans off of Gaydamak and from banks, it wasn’t a benefits in kind scenario where money was donated to Portsmouth in hope for success, the money spent on players had to be paid back to the loaner.

And Portsmouth couldn’t do this, with Fratton Park’s capacity limited to 20,000 and TV rights being a mere £7m back in 2010 the club were destined to be doomed.

Gaydamak’s advisers said that the businessman wrote off £13.5m in loans owed by the club and he made himself directly liable to Standard Bank for £25m meaning the club had to repay their debts to their owner rather than the banks.

The recession had taken its toll on Gaydamak and he got up and left at the start of the 2009/2010 season and ownership of the club swapped hands multiple times.

Firstly Sulaiman al-Fahim in a deal costing the Dubai-based businessman just £1 but after not being able to invest in the club he sold his stake in the club to a company called Falcondrone.

Saudi businessman Ali al-Faraj owned the company but al-Faraj did not have the money to fund Portsmouth.

The new owner had hopes to borrow £30m in an effort to stabilise the club but after only being granted £17m it soon became clear that financial meltdown was well and truly underway.

Even after the £17m, Portsmouth was still in debt. So much so that the Premier League wouldn’t grant the club it’s TV rights money and directly distributed it to clubs who were owed money from player transfers, including Chelsea who had not been fully paid for Glen Johnson’s transfer to the club.

The ownership of the club changed hands once more, as the loan couldn’t be repaid and the administrators came in to tackle the £135m debt.

Harry Redknapp, who managed the club to its FA Cup success, had this to say on the day administration was announced

“They have accepted they were going to get relegated anyway so they can go down and come back strong again. They can come straight back up again with that parachute money and the crowd behind them at home.”

But it didn’t happen that way for Portsmouth, the 2 x £16m parachute payments would not be enough to save a club that couldn’t pay its staff.

The club was sold again in 2011, this time to Russian Vladimir Antonov and Convers Sports Initiatives.

“I am pleased to welcome the club’s new owners and very much look forward to working with them. In CSI, I believe we have found owners who will take the long-term view.” Said Portsmouth Chief Executive David Lampitt on June 1, 2011 upon the ownership change.

Fast forward to February 2012 and the club entered administration again, £58m in debt, £1.6m in unpaid taxes and an owner who’s company had also gone intro administration in the wake of his arrest for allegedly asset stripping a Lithuanian bank.

Portsmouth were relegated at the end of the 2011/2012 season after a ten point deduction was incurred and were forced to start the following season at the bottom of league one with minus ten points.

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Portsmouth fans console Gabor Gyepes after their clubs relegation to League Two in 2013.

They began that season with no players on the wage bill and ended it where they started, bottom. Consecutive relegations.

Present day and Portsmouth are still plying their trade in the fourth tier of the English Football League, making the playoffs last season and similar ambitions seem to be in place for 2017.

But what shady or unreliable businessman owns Pompey these days? There is none, the club is now owned by those who have seen one of footballs most catastrophic downfalls, the fans.

In 2013, The Pompey Supporters Trust were successful in the takeover of the club.

“It’s been hugely frustrating, but at the end of the day it’s all been worth it and Pompey are alive and kicking.” Said the clubs administrator Trevor Birch upon the sale of the club.

Seven years and five owners later, Portsmouth may be in the bottom league of English football but at least the club is now with its rightful owners.

Darragh Culhane

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