The View from the Spire: 108.79%

Were it nearly any other conceivable situation, 108.79% would be a great and amazing achievement.

However it is also a well known cliché that many in the media and sports worlds use terms such as ‘The players are giving 110% out on the pitch tonight’ despite the fact that such phrases do not make any mathematical sense and so in this context, not only is it impossible, it is staggering how in this case, it ever got to this situation.

I am, of course, referencing the jaw dropping figure quoted from the administrators Hacker Young in relation to the amount of revenue Portsmouth FC spent on player wages and overheads in the financial year to May 31 2009!

Put simply, at 108.79%, the Club was spending far and above their means and that the February 2010 collapse was inevitable – even from some twelve months prior. The most recent announcement from Fratton Park was that the debts have nearly reached £120M.

In the non-sensical world football, some may not raise an eyebrow at this mere drop in the ocean when existing “buoyant” Clubs such as Manchester United have debts of £740M and Southerners Chelsea recently announced unsustainable losses of over £125M in one year. I guess the difference between these two and our lacklustre Club here relates back to the ability to pay the bills.

Without delving too much into a world of financial babble where debtors will only receive a fraction of what they are owed – some of the other figures and reasons banded about are equally as mind blowing. Here’s a flavour of Portsmouth FC’s ineptitude:

• Portsmouth owe former owners (and remember there has been 4 in the past year alone!) over £38.2M in loans
• The Club has an unpaid tax bill of £17M
• They owe £17+M in outstanding transfer fees
• For the signings of Jermaine Defoe, Sully Muntari and Glen Johnston Portsmouth FC still owe finance companies £10.35M
• To 26 player agents, they owe £9.76 including over £2M to the greediest of bastards, Pini Zahavi
• They owe 28 of their own players bonus payments totalling over £1.86M

…But, but BUT…

Extraordinarily ridiculous is the £1M Portsmouth FC owes Tottenham over former Bosnian goalkeeper Begovic despite the shot stopper having no connection with the London club. Begovic was linked to Spurs in January but opted for a move to Stoke instead leaving Portsmouth with a sell on fee for £1M!

Lets take a break with a short tune…


What this all points towards is that the world of football does not know how to operate as a business. And I know that it is not just the Portsmouth’s, Man United’s and Chelsea’s I reference here.

In the Portsmouth case, the Board of Portsmouth FC, and the CEO in particular, were the ones responsible for getting the Club into this situation – and interestingly it’s the first Premier League Club ever to enter administration. I am not confident it will be the last either.

The situation cannot be blamed on the Manager – whom, with respect, probably won’t be aware of any precarious financial situation at a Club, and equally likely not capable of understanding it. In their defence they will likely not have any Directorial duties bestowed upon them by the Club to give a shit beyond their own focus – which is (simplistically) only to get the best out of a group of (overpaid) players on the pitch once per week or more.

So, while the Premier League believe that they have rectified the rules surrounding this situation from happening again, they firmly believe that it is not something that they have contributed to in anyway – despite rising television revenues, the financial gap between the Premier League and the Champions widening and the Clubs willingness to risk all (including significantly stretching the financial boundaries) to remain in the top flight. In this case, the Premier Leagues finger of blame points directly at the Board of Portsmouth FC.

I always said that it would take more than one Club to suffer a meteoric fall from grace before other Clubs actually take any jot of notice and whatever the nuances and petty “he saids, she saids” used in this case, and despite this high profile monumental financial cock up by of enormous proportions by the Management at Portsmouth FC – there will sadly need to be more casualties at the very top level before anything will be done to prevent this most basic of business principles toppling another club of even greater historical and sporting or significant standing.

While bleak now, until that time, and speaking as a supporter, whatever the financial future of football, I know that there will only ever be one loser. And that’s you and me.


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