Author: Mark

Portsmouth: Rank Bad Management, But By Whom?

It says a lot, and none of it good, about the Premier League that all the right questions about Portsmouth’s situation are being asked by others, from HM Revenue and Customs to Private Eye magazine. It is becoming clearer by the day that Portsmouth Football Club has become a venue for an entirely non-football fight between two groups of business people. None of whom are called Ali Al-Faraj. In a recent Guardian interview, Ahmed Al-Faraj, the “brother” of the man Pompey fans have styled “Al-Mirage,” asked a pertinent question of those who doubted the credibility or very existence of the man who supposedly owned Portsmouth for over four months: “So who signed the documents with the Premier League and all the things with the banks, if he is not the owner?” Ahmed’s comments were part of an effort to show that his “brother” had “full charge” of Portsmouth and took all the executive decisions while he was the owner. It is difficult to see how this could be true. And not just because his “brother” was quoted, three weeks after buying Portsmouth, as saying: “It is not us who makes the decisions, the club has its admin and its board of directors, (so the decisions) are not in our hands.” Mind you, this “interview” was conducted “via telephone on loud-speaker whilst he was present in Ahmed’s car following the...

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AFC Bournemouth – Football Club Pays Taxes Shock!!!

The more mischievous sub-editors at the Bournemouth Daily Echo must have been tempted to produce the above headline when chairman Eddie Mitchell recently announced that AFC Bournemouth had indeed paid their taxes prior to the latest High Court winding-up hearing involving a football club. It seemed the ultimate good news story at a club which, in unfeasibly young manager Eddie Howe, has provided the best good news story of the last two seasons. Promotion is still an option after the Easter weekend fixtures for a side that has had to be, almost literally at times, patched together, as a result of the stringent transfer embargo placed upon the club for past financial misdemeanours. And while the taxes have been paid, Mitchell has maintained a superficially sensible stance on the club’s financial situation, namely, “We’re not out of the woods yet.” The “legacy debt” which has kept them in the High Court loop wasn’t just tax. In fact, all kinds of everything was owed to all kinds of people after Sport-6’s disastrous year in charge. Ground rent arrears, directors’ loans, the milkman (I made that last one up, albeit without any conviction that I’m wrong) were among a list of creditors published by Mitchell a month ago. Work still needs to be done. Supporters and others attached to the club seem capable of completing that work. The debts up to...

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UEFA & “Financial Fair Play” – The Book Of The Film

The UEFA Financial Fair Play proposals were scrutinised by the British press this week. Mark Murphy thumbs through it, takes a look at the press reaction to it and concludes that, unless there is a fundamental shift in the attitudes of football clubs or the loopholes are great enough for them to be able to squirm through,  the game’s civil war – a war against regulation – may be just around the corner. It wasn’t up on the Times newspaper’s web-site for very long. But UEFA’s “Club licensing discussion paper” (version 0.98) was the sort of information for which some may pay when the Times and Sunday Times start charging people to read their websites this summer. Not that the 62-page document would top any best-sellers list or win any literary prizes – certainly not the Booker Prize for Fiction, as I’m sure UEFA’s staunchest critics would have you believe. It’s a dry document, as these things always are. The minutia of financial regulation always is. But it is chock-full of common sense, practical solutions to practical current problems, mechanisms for preventing those problems in the future… in fact, all round, the “right thing.” “Something has to be done,” increasing numbers of English club owners have been saying. And it has been. For the moment, the proposals only apply within UEFA’s remit, specifically clubs’ participation in UEFA’s club competitions. So UEFA...

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The Premier League Ponders A Salary Cap

The Premier League’s Annual General Meeting this summer will provide stringent salary cap regulations for English football’s top tier, to judge by the plethora of club chairmen who have offered unsolicited opinions in favour of such regulations in recent months. It is refreshing to see such a consensus around an issue of such magnitude, especially coming from a group of people of such sound judgement. West Ham co-owner David Gold has struck a discordant note around the subject. But he has expressed his views with admirable consistency, long before salary caps became the sexy subject in the wake of Portsmouth’s financial demise. As he said on BBC Sport last summer, in opposition to “capping”: “I think you have to be very careful that you don’t go all the way back to 50 or 60 years ago, when Blackpool was the top club in the division, because you’d end up with a very bland league.” That, alongside his view that a “league” is “the survival of the fittest,” is a healthy sign that the debate will be constructive and well-informed, I’m sure you’ll agree. The credibility of the salary cap argument is demonstrated by Fulham chairman Mohamed Fayed being its most fervent supporter. As long ago as last April, Fayed was talking in admirably emotive terms on the subject. “Take my crusade against Sky-high players’ wages,” he told London’s Evening...

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Sheffield Wednesday’s “Imminent” Investment

Sheffield Wednesday have been in a state of flux for the last decade or so, since the reign of the current Premier League Chairman, Dave Richards. Mark Murphy takes a look at the Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford’s attempts to get somebody to pour some money into the club and finds a rather long list of near misses. Still, at least they haven’t been to the High Court yet. The February and March headlines in the Sheffield Star newspaper would have made encouraging reading for Sheffield Wednesday: “Owls takeover ‘on course’ says fans’ group” (26 February); “Owls takeover extremely close” (28 February); “Owls takeover deal still on track” (18 March). The problem was they were headlines from February and March… 2008, and Wednesday’s was a takeover tale that was dragging on a bit even then. The headline “Casino boss in Owls takeover talks” was already over a year old, and the casino boss in question was one Carson Yeung, now doing the work of a grateful nation by getting up David Sullivan’s nose on a regular basis in his role as Birmingham City major shareholder. Some of the unfounded takeover rumours were, shall we say, imaginative. Not least the one about former Manchester United big-man Martin Edwards, which was based on Edwards’ car appearing in the Wednesday car park. This was a tenuous enough link even before it was established...

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