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POMPEY CRIMES

09-03-2010

Portsmouth deserved to win their FA Cup Quarter Final with Blues on Saturday says Steve Beauchampé, but the Braveheart tag attached to their victory by the media leaves a thoroughly unpleasant taste.

Portsmouth deserved their win over Birmingham City in Saturday’s FA Cup Quarter Final. 2-1 would have been a fair result (so woeful is Blues’ scoring record that I doubt we’d have equalised in the final dozen or so minutes after Liam Ridgewell’s headed ‘goal’ wasn’t given, though the chance to find out would have been nice).

Where I do have a problem however is with the depiction of Portsmouth’s success in reaching the FA Cup semi-finals (shamefully now played at the tired new Wembley Stadium) as some kind of fairytale, ‘the romance of the Cup’, or ‘Pompey rising like a Phoenix from the ashes to reward their long suffering fans’, the real victims of their club’s mismanagement.

Rubbish! Portsmouth are a disgrace, they are around £70m in debt, have lived way beyond their means and enjoyed the fruits of this deception for years. They will be now relegated and deservedly so. They owe millions to the taxpayer (which could be used to fund public services), they owe other football clubs, and they are in hock to businesses both large and small (including their match programme printers), some of whom may be in financial trouble as a result of Pompey’s dereliction of duty. No romance for them, no glamour, no public adulation.

And beat this for sanctimonious clap trap: During a pre-match interview on ITV 1, midfielder Jamie O’Hara tugged at our heartstrings by stating that the real victims of the club’s administration were its junior employees, explaining that while the players would undoubtedly be paid, staff such as tea ladies and cleaners face redundancy”. So come on O’Hara, how about Portsmouth’s players (and Chief Executive Peter Storrie - earning a reputed £1.2m per annum) donating some of their wages to help these folk!!!

Other clubs - Manchester Untied, Chelsea and Newcastle come readily to mind - have greater debts but can service them because of the value of their assets. Yes, Premier and Football League rules need considerable tightening to limit the scope of such debts, but these clubs are at least paying their bills, even if a notable part of their income goes to the banks.

Not Portsmouth though. They have been living high on the hog for too long. The club and its fans have enjoyed several seasons in the Premier League, an FA Cup victory in 2008 with UEFA Cup football and a Community Shield appearance as a result. Unforgettable memories; memories thousands of other clubs’ supporters would dearly have loved to experience. Big paydays too, but all achieved fraudulently (in a moral, if not legal sense) their cavalier financial approach giving them an advantage over clubs who tried living more within their means. Even Pompey’s relegation comes about more by luck than design. Had they purchased just slightly better players with the money they didn’t have, they might have accumulated sufficient points to survive, making their 9-point punishment little more than a minor irritation.

The media has almost universally portrayed Portsmouth’s FA Cup exploits as inspirational. You bet they are - they’re an inspiration to others who think they can tramp all over the rules and the spirit of them in their quest for glory. They knew something of the scale of their debts back in January, they could have sold players in the transfer window to try and address their problems but refused to act in the hope that they might accumulate sufficient points to stay up.

So the message is clear to all those middle ranking clubs currently trying to live more frugally: Spend, spend, spend; don’t pay your taxes, don’t pay your rivals, don’t pay your other bills, Abdicate your responsibilities to the public, and to the wider football community. Then when things go pear-shaped play the martyr card for all it’s worth. Your place in the public’s heart - and football’s showpiece occasions - will be assured.

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