The Sweeper: Asking “O Brother Where art Thou?” at Pompey

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Blogs are often criticized for riding on the back of hard working traditional print media journalists charged with covering stories and gathering quotes first-hand.  Despite the disintegration of the traditional means of income for newspapers and magazines—exclusive ownership of the print press, the classified ads— for now, print journos still have the money and resources to send reporters to go out and report the news, with bloggers left to provide links and commentary.

But gathering the immediate facts of the day, collating them for a quick news story to be read and tossed out with the daily paper, won’t ever give readers the full story.  Thankfully, there are others have striven to uncover the deception at Portsmouth with methodical accuracy, relying only on dormant online news stories from the last year or so.

Mark Murphy at twohundredpercent today provides a marvelous, must-read investigative look into how both Ahmed Al-Faraj and Peter Storrie attempted to lay all responsibility for the board’s decisions at Portsmouth on Ahmed’s “brother” Ali Al-Faraj (dubbed Al-Mirage by fans), a man who purportedly ran the whole show, yet a man whose “brother” Ahmed claimed was next to him in a car while touring Fratton Park even though Ali couldn’t get an entry visa to the country, a man Sulaiman Al-Fahim admitted he’d “never met” despite selling 90% of his stake in the club to him, and who passed the Premier League’s fit-and-proper person’s test despite no one at the Premier League having actually met or made contact with him.

“Al-Mirage” indeed.

Even more damning is the failure of club administrator in shedding any light on the details of Ali Al-Faraj’s ownership of the club as a part of “due diligence” for potential investors:

And the joint administrator with the microphone, the never-knowingly-shy Andrew Andronikou promised over two months ago that he’d be covering it. “We have the responsibility of investigating the company’s recent financial history,” Andronikou said in a statement (club web-site, 26th February 2010) – although this statement also promised “proposals ready for circulation within eight weeks” to creditors. Andronikou at the time rightly gave priority to the “problems in hand…which are not insignificant,” and which he identified as “stabilising the club and reinstating a solid foundation for the future.”

As Murphy points out, all Portsmouth is left with is a debt estimate that seems to magically balloon by the week, now quoted at over £100 million, up from “£60 to £70 million” quoted at the end of February.  The incompetence and lack of transparency goes on and on.  Murphy concludes by pointing a finger directly at Richard Scudamore, for whom a storied, century-old club entering administration in the top flight has the same effect as a nightclub footballer punch-up.  If you ever wanted a clear demonstration of the warped priorities and unaccountability of the Premier League business model, this is it.

Murphy laments that the only major sources following this story are “the HMRC and Private Eye.”  It’s likely going to be this way for some time.  Football rumours and manager tirades will always run on page one; it’s sometimes left up to bloggers to help pick up an unheard story.  This is the sort of piece we need to see more of, and joins Fake Sigi’s point-by-point demolition of the MLS website debacle in demonstrating the sum of a string of publicly available news items is often greater than the whole.

Football meanwhile—despite all the incompetence and mismanagement that the supporters never deserve—goes on, proving that even money has its limits in the game:  ravaged and relegated Portsmouth FC will play in the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Quick Hits

  • Jaime Jackson waxes poetic about the greatness of the Bundesliga.
  • When Saturday Comes points out, quite rightly, that we’d rather not have all that “ra-ra” nationalism in our soccer commentary, thanks very much.

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