Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Alan Green: Others will follow Portsmouth if league doesn’t sort out mess

So, Portsmouth fans have had to accept the lesser of two evils: certain relegation, which may have happened anyway, as opposed to extinction at the hands of the High Court this morning.

But the Premier League and those that are alleged to govern the game in England, the Football Association, should hide their heads in shame.

Never before has a top-flight club gone to the wall, something that’s supposedly anathema to the all-mighty, all-powerful division created in the ‘SKY’ era.

How embarrassing. Their mismanagement of affairs in general — try thinking about the ‘fit and proper person’ rules without laughing — is as culpable as the club’s.

I don’t feel remotely sorry for Portsmouth. They’ve already had four owners this season and none has shown the slightest aptitude for basic economics. You only spend what you earn.

They and English football in general thought, and think, they’re immune to such common sense.

Well, only the future will tell us if a collective lesson has been learnt.

Before that, it seems UEFA will take action to remind all clubs, English and otherwise, of their financial responsibilities.

Somewhat smothered by the Pompey news last week was a quite damning report from Europe’s governing body.

English Premier League clubs, even excluding the mess represented by Portsmouth and West Ham, owe more money than all the clubs in Europe’s top divisions put together: four times higher than the next most indebted top division, Spain’s La Liga.

Unsurprisingly, the worst culprits are Manchester United and Liverpool who, between them, owe more than £1 billion.

Why? Because their American owners only became ‘owners’ by borrowing money to buy the clubs and then loading that debt onto the clubs.

It really beggars belief. No wonder supporters of the two biggest clubs in England propagate rebellion, still very visible at Wembley yesterday with United fans protesting against the Glazers.

And the Premier League appears complacent.

They defend the debt on the basis that, since they make the most money anywhere in Europe, largely because of revenue from television, our clubs can afford to borrow more.

Well, not from 2012-13 if UEFA has its way. Its proposals will force clubs to ‘break even financially’ if they’re to participate in European competition.

Imagine United’s debts if they didn’t have the Champions League riches to rely on.

As for Portsmouth, their troubles may only have started. Almost certainly, the Football League will dole out punishment of its own.

Unless the club reaches a voluntary agreement with its creditors and persuades them to accept far less than they’re owed (the Inland Revenue?) there’ll be a further points’ deduction next season, perhaps as many as 20. It won’t only be a case of saying goodbye to the Premiership, it’ll be League One here we come.

The lessons of Leeds United ‘chasing the dream’ were never learnt, were they?