Portsmouth's Odyssey: From Bad To Worse To Even Worser!
Just when they thought it was safe to go back on the pitch. It would appear that after last season's fiasco for the EPL at Portsmouth that things at the South Coast club have gone from bad to worse in comical amounts.
On Feb. 26, the club was placed into administration with estimated debts of around £60 million; by April, that total had doubled and more to £138 million with the end result sending Pompey into free-fall and a fire sale of all their main assets.
The Portsmouth Creditors Document highlighted the route the club was forced to take to stabilise the growing debts and as part of this, they lobbied the Premier League and UEFA to allow them to sell players outside the transfer window to reduce this.
As a result, the EPL opened a special window for Pompey on March 24 to allow the club access to much needed finance while they also closed down the club shops at Fareham and Cascades, making 85 staff members redundant.
With the list of creditors growing, a Creditors Committee to assist the Administrators was set up.
It consisted of five representatives from Stade Renness, HMRC, the Players Football Association, Capstone Sports27 Rights, Ocadia Investments, RC Lens, French football agent Jacques Perais, where they would make sure the club met their liabilities.
A full list of around 450 creditors can be seen from page 33 to page 47 of the Portsmouth Creditors Document.
The full list of creditors is extreme to the nth degree. As hard to believe as it is the club owed money to almost everyone!
From the Ministry of Defence to The Land Ladies Rent Account to Kitbag to Pukka Pies, the Porstmouth Supporters Club, the local Scout Troop, and even £0.20p to Qatar Airlines!
Just reward you may say for a club that was spending 109 percent of the club's income on wages alone.
On June 17, under Administrators UHY Hacker Young and an agreement with the Company Voluntary Agreement, Portsmouth would pay back their creditors £0.20p in the pound. This was voted against by HMRC, ex-manager Paul Hart, and Tommy Smith's agent.
With HMRC's debt of £17.1 million being massively reduced by 80 percent, it lodged an appeal against the agreement, thus placing the club under a transfer embargo until late September at the earliest.
Meaning that Portsmouth cannot buy players until the January transfer window at the very earliest.
Needless to say, the size of Pompey's debt has reduced the club to a mere shadow of their former selves and as we stand there are only 15 named squad players, with not one single recognised goalkeeper in the first-team squad.
To make matters worse, the club have decided against running a Reserve Team this year too, meaning that Steve Coterill will only have First and Youth team players to choose from.
With that in mind, it is hardly surprising to find that Pompey's recent Tour of North America did not go exactly well.
Right from the beginning, it seemed as if the Gods were against poor old Pompey.
Their trip from London to San Diego took an amazing 42 hours after connecting flights were cancelled due to bad weather and aeroplane maintenance. Leaving the players, coaches, and management stranded in Chicago, for the first time...
The cancelled flight meant that Pompey's 33-man team arrived in California only 24 hours before their first game of the tour against Club America.
On arrival to LAX, the pilot then welcomed Plymouth football to LA, things would get worse still.
Club America beat Pompey 2-1 in a bad-tempered game that took its toll on the Blues after their Planes, Trains, and Automobiles type-odyssey.
Three days later Portsmouth picked up their first win of the tour by beating Ventura County Fusion 2-1, but it was hardly a result to set pulses racing, as the winning goal came from a thunderbolt of a free kick from David Nugent.
The club then flew to Canada where they beat FC Edmonton on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but the real story was of how Pompey was beginning to resemble the cast of Day of the Dead.
Goalkeepers are at a premium in the South Coast club at the moment and the news that Jon Stewart broke his leg is a cruel and bitter blow.
Tom Kilbey also damaged his knee, rendering him injured for the last game of the tour against DC United and all of a sudden, Steve Coterill was scrabbling around for players.
Of the 19 players with Portsmouth in America, seven were injured, while three more were nursing knocks.
Much worse was yet to come...
Portsmouth was stranded in Chicago again after a freak lightning storm and only arrived in Washington seven hours before the kickoff of the final game of their tour.
However, their kit did not arrive with them!
14 bags of gear and clothes belonging to the weary party also went missing and just added insult to injury after the team only had four hours sleep between cancelled and connecting flights.
When Portsmouth's walking wounded did eventually take to the pitch to play DC United, it was in their opponent's away kit, on the hottest day of the year, a sweltering 39 C degrees, 105 F.
It would be safe to say that Pompey were not in the best of states for a match of any standing, and it is no surprise to see that DC mullered them 4-0.
However, the 4-0 drubbing was helped by Hayden Mullins getting himself sent off at 2-0; given Pompey's injury problems, it was probably the only way he could get a rest.
In the end, Portsmouth dragged themselves back home, and beat manager-less Fulham 1-0 at Fratton Park with Mark Hughes looking on.
Are things looking up?
It now seems that previous owner Alexander Gaydamak owns the land outside the club and wants to charge Portsmouth for its use, effectively making the ground an island!
The land in question is used as a carpark and ground access on matchdays and Gaydamak, who is still owed at least £5 million.
The ex-owner took control of the land only this week and is threatening to lock all the gates unless Pompey pay up for rental.
A temporary arrangement was put in place for Linvoy Primus' testimonial against Fulham but no agreement is in place after Tuesday, July 3.
Porstmouth now have until Aug. 14, when they face Reading, to negotiate for use of the land. If nothing can be done, then it looks very likely that home matches will have to be postponed until an agreement can be met.
But in truth things will come to a head far before then as with the gates locked the club will have no way of removing garbage from the ground or of accepting deliveries of any kind. Access for people who work at the ground will also be greatly impacted.
And while all of that is happening, ex-manager Harry Redknapp, ex-chief executive Peter Storrie, and ex-owner Milan Mandaric are all due in court for alleged tax evasion, surrounding financial dealings, when all three were at the club.
It finally looks as if Pompey have his rock bottom and from here you would have to think that things can only get better...