News that Portsmouth Football Club were going to apply for Administration for the second time in two years did not come as a surprise to Pompey fans. For years now, financial controversy has dogged Pompey and it particularly surrounds a period in 2009 when what is often referred to as ai???bad moneyai??? came in to the club.

In 2008, Pompey had one of their best seasons in the Premiership. They had finished in the top half of the table, were FA Cup winners and were embarking on their first European foray in the Europa League, under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp and the ownership of Sacha Gaydamek, a seemingly shy Russian owner, who whilst often seen watching the club, rarely spoke publicly.

Early signs of trouble

The beginning of the trouble that Pompey found themselves in, first began to emerge in the autumn of 2008 when Redknapp left for Spurs. In one of his early interviews at Tottenham he was asked why he left Portsmouth and he indicated it was because to succeed at the top, you need to continually improve on what you have and that takes money, which Portsmouth had run out of. Shortly after this, it was announced that Gaydamek was looking to sell the club as soon as he could and he would not be putting anymore money into the club as a result of that.

Redknapp was succeeded by his Assistant, Tony Adams, in the managerial hot seat as Pompey tried to keep things going. Adams seemed unable to inspire Pompey to the same degree as Redknapp and the players, Jermain Defoe in particular, began to talk openly about wanting to leave. Adams was sacked and replaced by Pompeyai??i??s Youth Team Manager Paul Hart and players began to leave. The club, however, maintained its Premiership status, thereby making it more attractive to buyers.

The spring and early summer of 2009 saw Pompey linked to various consortia and in the end, were sold to Suleyman Al Fahim – an Arab businessman from the UAE who with the CEO of Portsmouth, Peter Storrie, promised to take Pompey to a whole new level.

A bizarre, decisive takeover

A strange series of events saw Al Fahim relinquish the club very quickly following allegations of business sharp practice in the Emirates where he had all his financial assets frozen. Peter Storrie then introduced a buyer called Ali Al Faraj to the club. In one of the most bizarre take-overs ever, there was a low key press conference where there was no new owner present. The much promised early input of cash failed to materialise and that is when the name Balram Chainrai first appeared in the eyes of the Pompey Public.

It is alleged that Chainrai, a Hong Kong based businessman, had lent an amount of money to Al Faraj to help him initially secure the purchase of Pompey. Al Faraj defaulted on his repayment plan to Chainrai and in what can only be described as a coup, Chainrai took over the club in a virtually undisputed move.

It has since been alleged in Court in the first Administration hearing that Ali Al Faraj never actually existed. Due to sufficient doubt, it has been often mentioned in the media that Ali Al Faraj did not exist. Indeed following Administration in 2010, Pompey fans lobbied and eventually met with the FA to discuss what the Fit and Proper Persons Test (FPPT) for Owners actually consisted of. It has subsequently been changed.

The 2010 firesale

Pompey embarked on a fireside sale in the January 2010 Transfer window where several key players left, including a bizarre incident where Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was promised to Spurs and went to Stoke in a piece of business that actually cost Pompey A?1m.

In the same window, Younes Kaboul also left for a fee of around A?4m for Tottenham, in a deal where the money has never seemingly been credited back to the books of Pompey.

As Pompey progressed towards their second Cup Final in two years, the Clubai??i??s owner, Balram Chainrai, decided to put the Club into Administration, effectively relegating them to the Championship through the automatic points deduction that ensued. Once in Administration, the full picture of the financial catastrophe began to unfold.

The hysteria around FA Cup final 2010

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The damage revealed – first administration

As Administrators from UHY Hacker Young moved in, the lead Administrator, Andrew Androniku, revealed that Pompey had debts in excess of A?100m. To the people of Portsmouth – an industrial City of 180,000 people – where people earn less than the average wage, this level of debt was met with absolute disbelief.

Even more so when the financial details began to be released. Club CEO Peter Storriethe was earning in excess of A?1M a year ai??i?? putting him in the top 10% of CEOai??i??s in the game ai??i?? and had a contract that paid him bonuses when the team won or drew a match. Players were tied to long term contracts on unsustainable wages.

In what many Pompey fans now see as sharp business practice, Balram put the club into administration, only to buy it back with reduced debts. Through this process, many local companies were now only going to get a fraction of the money they were owed by Pompey. Chainrai still had the club on the market.

There were a number of seemingly decent owners who wanted to buy Pompey, but Andrew Androniku dismissed these buyers. His relationship with the fans was almost non-existent, treating them with almost contempt. The trouble in the modern age is that many things are stored on the internet and soon, fan groups began to unearth less than glowing testimonies relating to Mr Androniku and began to question why Balram Chainrai insisted on this particular Administrator.

New owners – rebuilding phase

In the summer of 2011, the club were passed into the hands of Convers Sporting Initiatives (CSI) in another low key event. Once again, there was no press conference and immediately, fans were suspicious of CSI – a company owned by two Russians, who also had banking interests through the Lithuanian bank Snoras as well as other sporting assets.

Feelings were already running high with fans after Season Ticket prices had been hiked by 22% and fans were only able to pay by using cash. Needless to say, Season Ticket purchases were down on the previous season. CSI refused to lower ticket prices and in a bizarre moved added a A?2 surcharge for match tickets bought on the day.

Despite CSIai??i??s low key start, they set about rebuilding the club with the second highest investment in the league behind Leicester, but the team struggled and manager Steve Cotterill was allowed to leave for Nottingham Forest. He was eventually replaced by the relatively unknown Michael Appleton, who was assistant manager at West Bromwich Albion.

Same old owners – destructive phase

At the end of November 2011, Vladamir Antonov, one of the two owners of CSI, was arrested for financial irregularities relating to his personal wealth and the Snoras bank. As a result, CSI was put into administration and all their assets frozen. At this time, Portsmouth were not deemed to be in any trouble as UHY Hacker Young were appointed as Administrators for CSI and Andrew Androniku was again charged with selling Pompey.

What emerged is that despite the Football Leagueai??i??s revamped FPPT, CSI were allowed to purchase Pompey, when the Financial Services Authority had refused to issue a licence to Snoras bank in London as they felt there were sufficient concerns that Banking Regulations would not be met. Pompey fans then questioned why CSI were able to pass the FPPT – a question the Footballing authorities have been unable to credibly answer.

Once again, despite much interest, no consortia or one individual seemed to be able to get close to doing a deal with the Administrator. The key to these seemed to be a A?17m Debenture owned by Balram Chainrai and lodged against Fratton Park, an asset that is worth only A?4M at best.

It then emerged that CSI had been due to pay Pompey a substantial payment in order to meet running costs. In January 2012, HMRC served a ‘Winding Up’ order on Pompey for non-payment of A?1.6M in taxes. Other unpaid creditors then came forward as debts of around A?46M were revealed. As a result of the winding up order, Pompey had their bank accounts frozen, meaning they could not pay their staff or players.

Fans want change, get change!

Many fans have been suspicious of the involvement of the Hong Kong businessman and the relationship between him and Andrew Androniku, so it was against this background of concern that it was mooted that as the main creditor, Chainrai again intended to put Pompey into Administration.

The hearing date for the application to enter Administration was set for Friday, 17th February. To many Pompey fans, the concern was not about the application for Administration, but the choice of Administrator. Androniku was again being put forward as the preferred man. In fact, Chainrai had said he would underwrite the fees, if he was the preferred man.

Friday, 17th February will be seen by many fans of Pompey as being the day there was a showdown in the Courts over the best interests of Pompey. In an unprecedented alliance, one of the Cityai??i??s Members of Parliament, Penny Mordaunt, HMRC and Portsmouth City Council (the last two being creditors) appealed to the Court to appoint a different Administrator to oversee the Administration of Pompey and its subsequent re-sale. These forceful arguments won the day and Trevor Birch, an ex-professional footballer himself, was appointed from the firm PKF to handle the Administration.

To many football fans, this will seem a tale of woe, with a second Administration in two years for a club that is seen as an example of financial excess within the English game. What it really is, is a tale of dark and unexplainable deeds, of money from questionable sources from people of dubious backgrounds. That is why the ten point deduction imposed by the football league for Pompey was just shrugged off by Portsmouth fans.

Finally, renewed hope!

There was however almost a wave of euphoria around the City as Trevor Birch was appointed to the Club. Birch has a far better track record than Androniku, and was the man responsible for bringing Roman Abromovich to Chelsea. Friday night saw fans celebrating the beginning of a new dawn at Pompey; hopefully, a release too from the clutches of a businessman that has forced the relegation of Pompey twice ai??i?? the recent loss of 10 points puts Pompey into the relegation zone.

So, how does this affect the Players? Pompey have the smallest squad in the Football League anyway and have been able to hold on to players in the latest transfer window, though some are expected to go including the England U17 Captain Sam Magri, in order to be able to bring one or two players in on loan.

The flag will always be flying high!

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The players at Portsmouth are up for the fight, as are the fans. 1500 fans traveled to Blackpool and sang their hearts out. It was acknowledged by the players after the final whistle. Several thousand fans stayed behind after a defeat to Ipswich, to demonstrate against the ownership of Balram Chainrai and his decision to put the club into Administration. Pompey players came back onto the pitch and applaud the fans in another show of strength and unity.

The Players have put to one side their concerns about non-payment. As Footballers, they are covered by the controversial Football Creditors Rule, which is currently the subject of a challenge by HMRC in a Court Case, which means all football creditors are paid in full when a club goes in to Administration. The biggest problem the players face is that of the smallest squad in the league. Due to a couple of injuries, Pompey were only able to name three substitutes in a recent game, so there is no squad of meaningful depth to utilise. Therefore, the players are starting to suffer fatigue and what with the recent cold snap, the harder pitches take its toll. But there exists an undeniable spirit in the dressing room and a great bond between the players and fans.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, a man who made his name at Pompey, hammered in the first goal at the San Siro against Arsenal. As his old club handles financial woes, fans wonder if only he could’ve also hammered in the penalty against Chelsea in the FA Cup final of 2010.

What could have been for Pompey? And, what it is now.

—-

Written by guest author Tony Goodall

Follow Tony on twitter @PompeySwiss

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One Response to “Portsmouth’s Administration Woes – Full Story Of A Club Twice Bitten, Never Shy!”

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  1. Paleface says:

    Sorry mate but your last paragraph sums up the delusional nature of Portsmouth FC and its fans. Your plight is as a result of financial cheating over many years, whereby you’ve lived beyond your means paying transfer fees and wages for players that other, well run clubs, could not afford. The 10 point deduction is a joke, the club should have been demoted a la Swindon Town.