|COLIN FARMERY: A funny old week at Fratton ends with a constant reminder...|
Sun 08th Jul 2012 14:26 by Colin Farmery
It has been a funny old week for fans of Pompey. Not that there's anything unusual in that. Nevertheless the messages coming out of Fratton Park in the past seven days have been mixed to say the least.
Given to believe, as we have been, that neither Balram Chainrai nor the Pompey Supporters' Trust, will be pursuing their respective bids unless compromise agreements are found with a stack of players past and present over contractual monies owed, it was somewhat confusing to learn this week that the club had appointed a 'Head of Recruitment'. With a Football League transfer embargo still in place, as a consequence of the failure to off load the club's high earners thus far, there was a certain incongruity about the appointment, especially as the new man, Luke Dowling, had given up a similar role at Crystal Palace to take the job.
In addition, it seems manager Michael Appleton may be soon given the green light to bring add Lincoln City defender Ashley Westwood to his coaching team. Neither action seems to be that of a club expecting to be out of business in a couple of weeks' time.
So where are we?
An article by Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail [click here] on Friday laid bare the issues facing Pompey. It is an article to be read with a little pinch of salt, as Ashton makes the common mistake of directly linking the club's current predicament to the halcyon days of Pompey's Premier League pomp, but it nevertheless has some telling revelations and reminders.
'Portsmouth have a wage bill that will blow the mind of anyone familiar with League One finances, an £11m-a-year commitment that continues to freak out prospective owner Balram Chainrai,' warbles Ashton. 'Freak out'? Come off it. Chainrai simply should have been more careful then.
A cursory glance at the players on that wage bill - Tal Ben Haim, Aaron Mokoena, Greg Halford, Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins, David Norris, Erik Huseklepp, Luke Varney and Dave Kitson - reveal they were all recruited well after the last lavish spending spree of erstwhile owner Sacha Gaydamak in the summer of 2008.
The contractual commitment to Mullins, Mokoena, and Ben Haim were known quantities when Mr Chainrai acquired Portsmouth FC out of administration in October 2010, not least because 12 months' previously he'd chosen to lend £18m to the club owned by a Saudi hermit no one had ever met. Given the evident risk of such a transaction, one has to assume the due diligence he completed was suitably thorough.
Lawrence and Kitson were effectively Chainrai-sanctioned signings, arriving in September 2010 under then manager Steve Cotterill and then CEO David Lampitt's 'quality not quantity' policy. The deals were done under the auspices of Chainrai's chosen Administrator Andrew Andronikou, with whom he did the deal to buy the club, despite the fact there were other potential purchasers out there at the time, notably Paul Duffen.
Huseklepp, Varney, Norris and Halford were the result of CSI's ill-fated attempt to 'match the ambitions of the fans' last summer. It is difficult the lay the blame for these signings at the door of Mr Chainrai, but some interesting questions are nevertheless raised as a result.
The signings were financed by CSI lending the club £10.5m last summer, a sum which was also supposedly used to clear up 'legacy issues'.
But hang on a minute. The Mail also reveals, and this is understood to be the case, that among the legion of football creditors are the likes of former players Michael Brown, Richard Hughes, Aruna Dindane, Benjani, David Nugent, Hassan Yebda, Ricardo Rocha and David James.
Legacy issues the lot of them, in one way or another.
The scale of the mismanagement of Portsmouth Football Club since the autumn of 2009 is breathtaking. From convicted fraudsters running the club's finances, via a botched Administration which created a CVA which was never going to be honoured, to the signing of Championship players on Premier League salaries, all concerned in creating this sorry mess should hang their heads in shame.
In their ways, various parties have been placed in the frame: Gaydamak, Storrie, Lampitt, Andronikou and Antonov all have their parts to play in this tragedy to a greater or lesser extent. More recently the players themselves have been increasingly demonised.
But like 'Blackpool' through a stick of rock, a constant remains. Balram Chainrai and his partner Levi Kushnir's limpet-like commitment to cling onto the money they claim to be owed. It has been their desire to play 'pass the parcel' of paying what the club owes, while twice taking the opportunity to use insolvency laws to reduce those commitments to those who can least afford it still further, that have led to the current desperate situation.
The players remain the key to Pompey finally being able to start moving forward again. Their willingness to cut a deal with the administrator will decide the club's fate.
Pompey players past and present, notably Jamie Ashdown and Hughes, have been strong supporters of the Trust bid, and it is to be hoped others will join them.
There is a chance to clean up Pompey once and for all. It will mean some give and take, with the players mainly giving.
But the advantage of the Trust bid is the players can be sure that Mr Chainrai will be justifiably, and finally, sharing the financial pain too...
Click here to support the Pompey Supporters' Trust bid.
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