As more clubs go in search of the ’hallowed turf’ of the English Premiership and the Sky millions, Rob Boulton takes a closer look at the financial predicament that Portsmouth find themselves in, warning that they won’t be the last club to die under these circumstances.
You would hope that even Southampton supporters have started to stop sniggering into their cornflakes as each day brings further shocking revelations as to just how deep and desperate the plight of Portsmouth football club has become. Anybody with the love of this game in their hearts that the greedy few are being allowed to poison should also sit up and take notice for today’s Portsmouth could be any number of club’s tomorrow, including Yours.
In a simplistic world a football supporter should never have any reason to worry about the financial affairs of their club, as the rules and regulations put in place by the authorities should weed out the fraudsters from the fat cats. Sadly for Portsmouth and their loyal support they’ve been fleeced, swindled and now find their club on the edge of extinction – but how could this happen to a club who have dined at football’s wealthiest table for the best part of the past decade and only 4 years ago lifted the FA Cup at Wembley?
“Chasing the dream” will end up being the epitaph’s for many football clubs in Britain as egotistical owners and chairmen have been blinded and seduced by the glitz, glamour and pots of gold on offer in the Premier League, or “Promised Land” as Sky have brainwashed people into thinking it is. There can be little argument that English football and in particular television coverage was in need of fresh impetus and investment when BSKYB lured the country’s top flight clubs to break away from the rest of the football league back in 1992, but the launch of the Premier League and handing over of control to a media corporation has also led many clubs to the situation Portsmouth find themselves in today.
The hype and media spin around the league is such that clubs lose all sense of sanity and control in attempting to secure a coveted place in the 20 team elite division. Fortunes have been blown on expensive foreign imports and wages have rocketed as players and agents suddenly realised this brave new world would ultimately die on its backside without star players, and despite the promise of reduced match ticket prices for match-going supporters this explosion of greed and player wealth has actually seen the opposite happen with ticket prices soaring to a point where attending top flight football is no longer feasible for many who quite rightly felt they’d always have a place at the home of their beloved side.
These decent and ordinary people are reflected by the harrowed faces of the Portsmouth supporters you see on the news outside Fratton Park or the Portsmouth training ground trying desperately to try and find a solution that would save their club, some even going to the lengths of handing out letters to the players as they arrived at training explaining how they could help improve the situation by dropping claims for extortionate wages owed, to at least allow the club some breathing space to work out a better solution. One of the players being singled out for vitriolic abuse is Tal Ben Haim, who is holding out for £2.5m in wages due to Portsmouth never putting any relegation clauses into his contract, so while the club now find themselves in League One Ben Haim’s deal entitles him to a staggering £36k a week plus a £1m image rights deal. Whilst the sums involved are vulgar and show just how far football has slipped from reality, in essence this isn’t the fault of Ben Haim as he’s simply claiming what his contract entitles him to, but at the same time he should be financially secure for life so the call is for him to show some dignity and respect and work out a solution that keeps Portsmouth in business whilst giving him a chunk of what he’s owed.
That kind of solution makes a lot of sense to You or I, yet Ben Haim has now launched an astonishing attack on the Auditors attempting to save the club by claiming their premium fees are equally to blame for the current situation, and even the man who scored Portsmouth’s winning goal in that FA Cup final just four years ago Kanu is also claiming £3m in owed wages, money he knows the club don’t have and another nail in the coffin of a club who have paid him handsomely to play for them for the past few seasons. Ironically the auditors are claiming £650k in fees owed, so even the people bought in to save the club are now picking whatever scraps of meat are left on the carcass.
Whilst the Mr Pompey fella with the bell is a bit of a tit and has ruined many an afternoon with his incessant drone, ultimately he cares that much for his football team that he covered himself in tattoo’s to show that and travels far and wide to watch them play football, and you know that given the chance he’d play for that side for free even if it were just one time as he’d be living out his wildest dreams. That’s what football does to people, that’s how much it matters to so many and that’s why nobody should dismiss what is happening on the South Coast, as it’s hard to imagine Portsmouth are the only club in this much of a tangle, the rest are just a bit further out on the web for now but they’ll all get exposed over time and this sorry tale will be repeated over and over again, with the impact on cities, towns and communities unimaginable.
Just think for a second what your life would be like without your football team? For many it’s an unbearable prospect, but for Portsmouth and their supporters it’s real and actual and while Richard Scudamore smiled his evil smile as he announced the latest bumper TV rights deal just a few short weeks ago, he should have been held up in court to explain the “Fit and Proper Person Test” that He and his organisation introduced under the guise of protecting clubs from this exact scenario.
Do you agree with Rob’s assessment of the English game? Do you have similar fears? Tweet @talkingbaws or comment below.