As Portsmouth slid into administration, the grim reality of their predicament could be seen from a cursory glance at the bottom of the Premier League table. The club is, of course, bottom of the table, but they have been there much of the season. The unpleasant added bonus is that they are now cast adrift at the foot of the table on ten points, after the nine point deduction – pro-rata’d down from the usual ten points to take into account that Premier League clubs only play thirty-eight league matches over the course of a season – for entering into administration kicked in. Premier League survival now seems all but impossible. They are seventeen points adrift of Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, the two clubs that sit uncomfortably just above the relegation places, with just nine matches left to play. Their relegation could be sealed in as little as three or four games’ time.
Although perhaps understandable in their current desperation, Portsmouth’s standing among supporters of other clubs has hardly been helped by a sense that they were trying to wriggle out of a punishment that many other clubs have already been sanctioned with. Even today, Peter Storrie, the discredited former Chief Executive who stays at Fratton Park as “an advisor” (nobody has yet successfully explained what the difference between the two actually is) stated, without showing the working, that the deduction “terribly unfair”. Storrie, however, has been gripped by this sort of myopia over the last few weeks on more than one occasion. He blamed “abuse” from supporters for his resignation, in a public statement that seemed perfectly sum up the sort of denial that seems to be endemic within the Premier League at the moment, without having seemed to take on board that, as possibly the only constant at the club during its fall from grace (unless we’re going to get post-modern about it and claim has been the only other constant at Fratton Park over the same time period), his departure from Fratton Park was inevitable.
Quite what alternative to the scenario that has unfolded Storrie would suggest would be likely to boggle the mind. The club has been stripped bare over the last two years under successive owners. Storrie worked under all of them. What were the limits of his responsibilities? This is a question worth asking now because, if this situation was unfolding before his very eyes, why did he not alert somebody or make a public statement condemning what is now seems to have been the systematic desecration of the club that he was employed by? And as for the points deduction being “terribly unfair”, well, the question begs to be asked of who, exactly, he feels it is very unfair towards. The answer, one suspects, might just be “Peter Storrie”. After all, the deduction of points for clubs that are insolvent, as a (frequently futile) gesture against what we have come to know as financial doping, is a well-known state of affairs. It would, by any stretch of the imagination, have been an outrage had Portsmouth not been deducted points over their insolvency episode.
How much longer Storrie can cling on in any way at Portsmouth was thrown into question by comments made by the club’s administrator, Andrew Andronikou, this week:
He was a senior officer of the company and the company has failed so it goes without saying that yes he must bear a large part of the responsibility, absolutely.
Andronikou is giving every impression of rather enjoying his time in charge of the club. Of course, none of the liability for what has happened to Portsmouth over the last couple of years or so. Whether he can save the club, however, is a broadly different question. The potential new buyer for Portsmouth hardly comes across as a shrinking violet, either, though. Rob Lloyd has made his fortune from property development. He appeared on the Channel Four television programme “The Secret Millionaire” in November 1998 and also lists horse racing as being his other main love in life. What his proposals to get Portsmouth FC back on its feet are largely unknown, but we can at least be fairly certain that they will be having to address this issue in The Championship, with all the attendant falls in reveune that this will being. Quite how Lloyd plans to address this fall in revenue is anybody’s guess.
That a new buyer for Portsmouth Football Club seems to be the only way that it can be saved is a savage indictment upon everybody that has been running Portsmouth Football Club over the last few years, including Peter Storrie. The best case scenario for the club now would seem to be relegation, a CVA that is affordable for the club and the possibility of rebuilding once back in the Championship. The worst case scenario may see them fail to make agreement with Lloyd’s consortium, get a further points deduction from the Football League for failing to exit administration and lurch on, rattling around at the bottom of the Championship next season. The final collapse of the club could yet dwarf anything that we have yet seen in English football, and anybody that says that this is impossible would be fooling themselves. And the fact that such a state of affairs has been allowed to fester really is “terribly unfair”, but it will be a cold day in hell before we see anybody in a position of authority within English football shed anything but crocodile tears for the supporters of the club, even if the worse happens.