Portsmouth Football club- The famous blue and white Pompey as they were called.
If you were watching football from the 90’s and 2000’s, you would know that they were one of the big clubs of the Premier league. Harry Redknapp winning them the FA cup in 2008, remember that? But hey, what has happened to one of the most historic football clubs in English football? It is a sad statistic that more than 50 member clubs of the Football League and Premier League have undergone proceedings in relation to bankruptcy in the past two decades. There have been some big names amongst those who have undergone this dreadful fate. Leeds United, Southampton and Leicester City are one of the most notable clubs who have had issues with this. Southampton have become one of the the Premier League’s constants and who can forget Leicester City’s famous title win? Leeds are a stable Championship club and under new ownership this season following their own issues with their owners and fans, they are genuine contenders to be promoted to the Premier League after giving it a solid go, last season. But, where are Portsmouth – in the Championship? No. In League One? Yes, and blimey, they have been just promoted there from the fourth division this season. It has been some fall from grace, isn’t it?
In many ways, sport and life are things which can change without giving you a clear indication that something drastic is going to take place. There are things that can change in a jiffy and we are left to dwell over what had actually happened. In some of the cases, these changes are merely the repercussions of our past acts which later come back to bite us in the back in a rather unpleasant manner. They have entered administration not just once, but twice, since that historic summer day in May 2008. So, where did the downfall begin? The club did not make enough money to pay the multimillion-pound transfer fees and high wages for the squad of star players assembled by a manager Harry Redknapp, who led them to the FA Cup win. During their six and a half years in the Premier League, Portsmouth had not expanded Fratton Park to accommodate more than 20,000 supporters which meant they could not generate more revenue compared to other Premier league clubs. The overspending was funded with loans from Alexandre Gaydamak, who owned the club and with bank loans. However, as the costs grew and the recession hit, the banks demanded their money back, and Gaydamak decided he could no longer afford to fund the club. A Dubai-based businessman Sulaiman al-Fahim bought Portsmouth from Gaydamak in August 2009 by paying just £1, and promising to put £5m into the club and find more money soon after that. However, Fahim failed to secure further funding. Pompey’s players were not paid their wages at the end of September, then the Premier League called in Fahim and told him no further delay would be accepted.Soon, the situation became untenable and after 43 days Fahim sold 90% of the club to a company called Falcondrone. The Premier League was told that a Saudi Arabian businessman, Ali al-Faraj, was the sole owner of Falcondrone.
But then, things did not improve at all. The problem was that they simply did not have enough money. He had intended to borrow a sum £30m from a private bank called EFG,for the purpose of investing in Pompey, unfortunately he failed to secure that. Instead they borrowed what was said to be £17m from a Hong Kong-based businessman, Balram Chainrai. Yet, despite money coming in, the club still owed millions to HM Revenue and Customs and had to pay a wage bill which remained too high. Portsmouth also owed money to the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Rennes FC, etc from earlier transfers and the Premier League had to revoke their right to get money from TV production rights in order to settle the dues. The club’s new owner Balram Chainrai knew that Portsmouth were in debt and so to protect the club from liquidation, Chainrai placed the club into administration. This automatically incurred a nine-point penalty from the Premier League and virtually consigned the team to relegation.However, during even their worst period, Portsmouth won their FA Cup semi-final match against Tottenham 2–0. But in the final, they faced Chelsea at Wembley and lost 1–0 to a goal from Didier Drogba.
These dark days came after some wonderful nights at the famous Fratton Park. They had qualified for the Europa league(It was known as the UEFA Cup during those days). Some of Europe’s biggest clubs like AC Milan came over and those were certainly special days. The FA Cup winners of 2008 had a squad including Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Lassana Diarra, Sulley Muntari, Sol Campbell and Glen Johnson – all full time internationals and big names who attracted a lot of good press coverage. Those big players delivered the goods and helped them to an 8th position finish in the Premier League. In May 2008 , The Pompey travellers from the south of England couldn’t believe what was unfolding in front of their eyes. Their beloved club Portsmouth, had won the FA Cup. But at the time, the fans were oblivious to the deadly fate that awaited their club and has now forever left a blemishing mark on the history of the club. With a club like Tottenham in pursuit of Harry Redknapp, the inevitable had to happen and Redknapp unsurprisingly made the move to the North London giants. Arsenal legend Tony Adams, who was Redknapp’s assistant manager at the time, was promoted to the managerial role. One of the greatest days in their long history unfolded at Fratton Park in November 2008 when Tony Adams’ side managed to claim a 2-2 draw with Italian giants AC Milan.
But what has since followed has been nothing short of shattering for a Portsmouth fan or even a football fan, in general. They had plummeted down to the fourth division and it was devastating to witness a club sink to the lowest possible bowels of English football 5 years after laying their hands on the biggest Cup trophy in Britain. Despite returning to the third division as winners of League 2, they are a long way away from the hay days under Harry Redknapp. It is indicative of the fact that, not just in life but even in football, you can never escape from bearing the repercussions of what you did in the past. Portsmouth’s example is one of the most depressing football stories you will ever come across but let’s hope that no other club goes through such a calamitous period in the future.
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