'Dysfunctional' Portsmouth to enter administration
By John Sinnott
Portsmouth are bottom of the league and in dire financial straits
Debt-laden Portsmouth have been called "completely dysfunctional" as they became the first Premier League club to enter administration.
Accountant Nick O'Reilly of Vantis, who recently examined the club's books, said Pompey's business methods had gone "against all good governance".
"I came away not knowing who controlled what," O'Reilly told BBC Sport.
Portsmouth entered administration on Friday and will be docked nine points, leaving them facing certain relegation.
With debts of about £60m, they were due to face a winding-up order on 1 March over an unpaid £11.7m tax bill owed to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
However, that action was suspended when the Fratton Park club declared earlier this week its intention to go into administration unless a buyer for the club could be found.
Phil Hall, spokesman for Pompey owner Balram Chainrai, claimed four parties were interested in a possible takeover but Thursday's deadline passed without any indication that a deal was close.
Administrator Andrew Andronikou, of insolvency experts UHY Hacker Young, will now begin the process of cutting costs at the club to try to keep it as a viable entity.
Chainrai became Portsmouth's fourth owner of the season earlier this month, taking 90% of the club's shares after previous owner Ali Al Faraj defaulted on loan payments due to the Hong Kong-based businessman.
Pompey's financial woes have been well documented.
Players have been paid late on four occasions this season, while the club is also involved in a separate dispute with former owner Sacha Gaydamak over whether they have missed a deadline in paying a £9m chunk of the £28m they owe him.
The Premier League also withheld £2m of transfer payments recently and diverted a £7m slice of TV revenue to Chelsea and Watford to cover the signings of Glen Johnson and Tommy Smith respectively.
Portsmouth, currently bottom of the table with only 16 points, are also being sued by former defender Sol Campbell for £1.7m for unpaid image rights.
Despite their precarious financial position, O'Reilly, the accountant who prepared the financial statement that Pompey had to submit to the High Court earlier this month, is hopeful the club will continue to exist.
"I remain confident Portsmouth will survive," he said. "They'll do a deal with creditors, though HMRC is spitting feathers because Portsmouth have been a serial late payer.
"The club could end up a few leagues further down the football pyramid, but for the majority of Pompey fans that will be a good result.
"A perfect result would be a properly constituted board."
Portsmouth are likely to need between £22m and £26m to keep the club going until the end of the season.
Chainrai reluctantly took control of Pompey to protect his investment
But with Fratton Park having been sold to Chainrai, they have effectively just one asset remaining - the players.
According to the club's accounts, the playing staff is worth £23m, although the board claim the squad is worth much more.
"Unlike Newcastle, Portsmouth don't have a large fan base and lots of corporate facilities," added O'Reilly. "They are completely dependent on TV rights.
"Buying clubs will know that Portsmouth have to sell and will extract the best price they can. Not only that but players like David James have no resale value at all."
Portsmouth employ nearly 600 people - directly or indirectly - and O'Reilly warned them to expect a "rocky" time ahead.
"The next few months are crucial to the business," he said. "People will lose jobs, but hopefully the club will come out the other side."
Having been through Portsmouth's books, O'Reilly believes that having had four owners this season - Gaydamak, Al Faraj, Sulaiman al-Fahim and now Chainrai - decision-making at the club became paralysed.
"There has been blind inertia to what has been going on," added O'Reilly. "When Sulaiman al-Fahim was out of the country, no decisions were being taken and the board were having to firefight.
"Ali Al Faraj took over and he brought in executive director Mark Jacob and various consultants, but that caused further inertia.
"What you want is clearly defined lines of communication, with decisions being followed through.
"When the administrator takes charge the club will have one person making decisions and he can start managing."
Former Portsmouth manager Paul Hart, sacked in November after just four months in charge, was saddened by the club's plight but thinks administration could provide a platform for a "fresh start".
He told BBC Radio 5 live: "I think the club can be strong again if they use some foresight and planning and adopt a restructuring programme.
"It looks like administration is necessary and hopefully will give the club a chance to recover."
Hart added: "The supporters have been long suffering and there are some very good, conscientious people who work there we should be thinking about because their jobs are in a precarious position.
"The players have done very little wrong and conducted themselves well. There are a lot of good people at the club and we tend to forget them."
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