Most football clubs, at one time or another, inadvertently take on unscrupulous characters in the boardroom. But few, if any, have lurched from crisis to crisis with as much regularity as Portsmouth.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, albeit poorly, to lapse into administration once could be regarded as unfortunate. To do it twice in virtually as many years smacks of carelessness.

You really couldn’t make it up.

As all of us know, supporters are the bedrock of any football club but Pompey’s diehard fans must now be utterly sick and tired of the goings-on on the south coast. With another 10-point deduction imposed on them and a raft of employees made redundant to save costs, can they possibly survive this time?

Supporters groups have been utterly bewildered over whether the club that famously won the FA Cup only four years ago will ever get back on its financial feet and have reliable people in charge.

Who can blame them given the number of times suspect opportunist investors have arrived promising the earth, only to let the fans down. The latest is Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov who came in last summer pledging much-needed stability yet resigned six months later as chairman and director of Portsmouth after being arrested along with his business partner and charged with fraud as part of a money-laundering investigation in Lithuania involving alleged asset-stripping.

Antonov was the latest in a line of Portsmouth owners to come under suspicion. The club announced that its business operations would remain unaffected and its day-to-day operations carry on as normal. The reality, of course, was totally different.

Not surprisingly, years of mis-management at Portsmouth – with one or two exceptions – have left fans wary of the Football League’s much-derided fit and proper persons rule, known officially as the “owners and directors” test, which outlaws previous convictions but has precious few teeth.

Pompey insiders stress that much of the current crisis is down to the “massive overspending” of previous regimes. Yet equally alarmingly, thousands of pounds are still owed to small average-earning creditors, however much Pompey executives might try to deny that.

This week, Antonov defended his time at the club, blaming his troubles on the Lithuanian government.

He says he will sue to try and clear his name.

Good luck to him. The fact remains that the human cost of Portsmouth’s financial problems became starkly apparent when administrators were forced to make 30 redundancies, including Chief Executive David Lampitt.

Other members of staff have been reduced to part-time roles and many employees, including the players, could see their wages deferred. A Premier League cost base but with Championship income is how Pompey have been described. Should the club run out of cash, the only people who deserve our sympathy are the legions of diehard fans who have supported Pompey through thick and thin, plus one or two worthy executives who tried, at least, to steady the ship.

For the rest, those who brought the club to its knees for the second time in succession, they know who they are.


Matthew Joseph is an occasional contributor for The Leader and friend of the company.

The views of our columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.

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