How can a Premier League club find themselves in this situation? The club is at death’s door, facing possible liquidation in the next few weeks and the worse thing is; fans can’t do too much to stop it.
Finances at the club are at a disastrous level to put kindly. Interestingly enough, the financial director, Tanya Robbins, resigned from her post this afternoon. She remains at the club however, as the new club secretary, but for how much longer?
Somehow, owner Ali Al Faraj has been allowed to own a Premier League side without any sufficient investment or money of his own being put into the club. What’s more shocking is that this mirage of a figure was approved by the national football authority, the FA.
In the space of one season, Portsmouth have had two jokes of an owner, Sulaiman al Fahim and Al Faraj. Al Fahim gave Newcastle owner Mike Ashley a run for his money, by parading in Pompey-wear at his first home-match appearance. Despite his embarrassing antics, at least he can say he’s been to the club he owned, albeit briefly.
Since owning the club from October 2009, Ali Al Faraj has failed to make a single appearance at Fratton Park, giving only one official statement upon his arrival. Fans have had to make do with makeshift appearances from his brother, Ahmed. If anyone doubted whether Ali was a real person, they’d be right to do so. Even his spokesman, Mark Jacob, the ‘new Peter Storrie’, has admitted to not having ever met Ali.
Jacob, the club’s executive director, has portrayed himself as an unpopular figure at Fratton Park recently, often spouting lies by the second. How many times did he expect the transfer embargo to be lifted by the Premier League? By the fourth time he said it, even the most optimistic fan knew it wouldn’t happen.
The current administration argues that they saved the club. Truth be told, they did. However, failing to pay players and staff on four separate occasions on time is something they cannot blame on the previous owner, which they have had great joy in doing so in the past. This excuse is becoming more tiresome by the minute and lacks all respect to the fans.
Upon West Ham being taken over recently by David Gold and David Sullivan they revealed in an open, honest press-conference the scale of the large debts that were deeply affecting the club. They told the truth! If only the Portsmouth board of directors could do the same. At the end of the day, to use an old football cliché, fans want honesty. They want to know what’s affecting their club and to help get involved to make the situation better.
By being kept out of the loop, how can the fans help? Fans are forced to play the guessing game and rely on articles they read in the national press as factual. Incidentally, articles that have been appearing in the national press seem to be of more truth than the statements produced for the official website.
I do sympathise with the current board in one way. The treatment the club are receiving from the Premier League and the blatant ignorance from the FA is unnecessary and frustrating. They are part of the problem that has caused the looming demise of Portsmouth Football Club. They have allowed owners to take over the club when they haven’t had the finance to run it efficiently and for a sustained period. The Premier League, how they do make me laugh, have the cheek to say Portsmouth ‘are damaging the image of the Premier League’.
Is that all they can care about? The image of the ‘prestigious Premier League’? Well, if the club is damaging this image, would they care to lend a helping hand? Would they care to get involved and help regulate the finances?
The Premier League is on a slippery slope, and I for one cannot wait to see the failings of it soon to come. I do not wish what we’re going through on any other club, however, as things stand, other clubs in the Premier League and around the country are set to follow Portsmouth’s path. Hull, West Ham, Liverpool and even Manchester United have been cited to have financial troubles of late. Hull have said today that they cannot ‘afford the current wage structure’.
Clubs like United and Liverpool will be bailed out, but for the smaller teams, it seems as though a rather Darwinistic attitude has emerged, ‘survival of the fittest’.
I’ve digressed, the real issue, and the real fault lies with three people, one of which still remains at the club.
Harry Redknapp, Peter Storrie and Sacha Gaydamak.
Harry’s gotten off lightly in the national press, it’s almost as though he never managed Portsmouth, never withheld a connection. Gaydamak has done his best to argue his side of the story, stating Storrie and Redknapp ‘controlled the budget’ concerning transfers, how naive of him. And Storrie, the lovable man he is, with public opinion of him changing ever five minutes. Once portrayed as the club’s shining knight in armour, he is now seen as a useless crook, a crook no longer wanted at the club.
It’s a sad state of affairs. I don’t want to see this club die, and I’m sure a large number of people don’t want to see it die either. It’s the heartbeat of a working-class city. It would damage the local economy. The club put Portsmouth on the map and provided so many memories over the years.
If no-one out there is going to help Portsmouth, we as fans must. We must protest. We must gain national press attention. We must bring this issue to the forefront of those in authority. We must reveal the joke of the fit and proper owner test and we must restore some pride and respect.
Faraj, despite his best efforts, hasn’t got the money to run a football club and cannot even guarantee long-term investment. Does that sound like an owner we should want to keep?
A protest is starting from Guildhall Square tomorrow afternoon, around noon. The march is hoping to meet up with another march from Milton Park. The national press have been called and Sky expect to send a camera crew to cover the event.
The club is fighting for their future, yet the only ones that seem to care are its fans. The Premier League and the FA seem prepared to watch us go, in the hope they can quickly rebuild their image, how sad is all I can say.