The Sweeper: Portsmouth and the Premier League’s Disgrace

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The scale of Portsmouth’s debts have astonished onlookers, documented this week by administrators. As the Times summarises:

A report compiled by Portsmouth’s administrators has laid bare the extent of the financial mismanagement at Fratton Park.

The 70-page document reveals the club owe unsecured creditors £92.7 million, while overall debt has spiralled to £119 million – far higher than the most pessimistic estimates

Most stunning (The Sun: “Shocking and shameful, wicked and wild, irresponsible and incompetent.”) to people is the revelation in the document that  local charities, non-profits and businesses are still owed relatively trifling sums. £9 million is owed to 15 football agents, but no-one is crying for them; instead, quite rightly, the outrage is about the debts like these:

  • Priority Community Sports Centre: £11,000
  • St John Ambulance: £2,700
  • Faith & Football: £1,998
  • Carol Moore, a local florist: £995
  • Boy Scouts: £697

The Times features outraged fans:

“What is it that we have been ‘supporting’ in the last months and years?” one fan asked on a local newspaper message board. “From the big stuff, the millions sloshing around like bilge water in a [sinking] ship, to the pathetic non-payment to the Boy Scouts [£697], I am coming to the conclusion that this is not a business which we can want to have anything to do with.

“After the Cup Final, I am not sure anyone who supports Pompey can ‘support’ this business or any of the events it organises. This is not Pompey any more.”

The outrage is, of course, justified. A company bringing in millions of pounds of revenue each year through football and failing to pay basic debts to local companies and community organizations is a disgrace.

What it should not be is a surprise: Portsmouth are the 54th insolvency in British football since 1992, the year the Premier League launched, as David Conn mentions.  As has been usual practice in England, football creditors, such as other clubs, are paid in full before any other debts when a club becomes insolvent, due to Premier League (and Football League) rules, leaving the creditors above unpaid while other clubs receive millions.

This is a rule that, whilst understandable from a business standpoint, severely damages football’s reputation in many local communities, and makes a mockery of the idea football should be given any exemptions as a key part of community life. St John Ambulance, providing a voluntary service for clubs assisting the injured and sick, should not be left out of pocket by Portsmouth’s collapse. For once, tabloid outrage is fully justified and the Premier League should be ashamed of its own rules.

Quick Hits

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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