With Portsmouth’s winding up order against them scheduled next month it appears they could be joining the likes of rivals Southampton and once giants Leeds United in the list of club’s who chased dreams forgoing the financial implications.
Portsmouth’s monetary problems have come from chasing a dream, of making the club a big Premiership side whose ability to offer large wages was to attract the best players they could and for a while it worked. Between 2002 and 2008, the Harry Redknapp years so to speak, the club transformed itself from Division one survival to FA Cup winners and having top half Premier League credentials. Milan Mandaric initially owned the club and fuelled much spending before selling Portsmouth onto unknown Russian businessman Alexandre Gaydamak who continued the spending trend. Whilst we all know Redknapp left and then came back, Gaydamak allowed huge spending on new players for Redknapp and the club initially moved up the table and in 2008 triumphed in the FA Cup. It proved a watermark moment for Portsmouth as despite the place in Europe they were massively overspending. Gaydamak sold the club onto Sulaiman Al Fahim and it has led down a path of destruction.
Upon the UAE businessman buying the club Portsmouth fans believed they were going to gain the investment as the likes of Manchester City have received, yet to avail. Fratton Park only holds just over 20,000 and even with sponsorship and TV money the books did not balance. Numerous clubs are owed money from transfer deals, unpaid taxes and the club has an extremely high wage bill for its size, hence Portsmouth just could not sustain itself. Who takes the blame for this?
Well Peter Storrie has been at the helm of the club since Mandaric’s ownership, he’s been in charge of wages, transfers, etc. Currently being charged with alleged tax evasion, Storrie is not exactly squeaky clean. Gaydamak surely must take the brunt having sold the club just when he knew the balance was tipping. He must have seen the figures and the squad and knew it was time to get out. His fuelling of overspending to make Portsmouth better has put the club in this position. Furthermore Redknapp must surely look at himself, whilst making Portsmouth a much better side, was it necessary for him to buy all the players he wanted?
Now Portsmouth can join alongside Leeds United, who under Peter Risdale went for glory and only just missed out, if Leeds United had finished 4th instead of 5th in 2002, we could be talking about a team with a few titles under its belt. That’s how close that great Leeds side was. Having taken out loans against expected Champions League TV revenue Leeds went on a spending binge that accumulated in over reaching and financial implosion after failing to qualify for the premier club competition. They had to sell Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United and the rest is history. We all know where Leeds United are now.
Same with Southampton, a small club with a decent heritage after surviving in the top flight for 27 years with a very limited budget were relegated from the Premier League in 2005 and could not cope with the massive drop in revenue. Young stars such as Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale had to be sold to balance the books yet the club went into administration and was relegated from the Championship. Rupert Lowe came into much criticism for the way the club was run financially during his time as Chairman
Portsmouth fans must be upset as to the shambolic way the club has been run, yet little was said when they were lifting the FA Cup and riding high in the Premier League. Yes it’s a disgrace what people have done to Portsmouth, Leeds United and Southampton but was it not worth chasing the dream? Leeds United fans curse even the mention of the name Peter Risdale but if they had sat in the room when the loans was to be negotiated, would they have said no to the ability to have a large extravagant budget and go for glory? It is a difficult decision that is for sure and I’m not entirely convinced fans would have turned it down.
You can follow all Matthew Balmforth’s blogs on twitter: http://twitter.com/Matt_Cast