Fresh start, but no escaping past mistakes

David Lampitt, left, and Vladimir Antonov. Picture: Barry Zee
David Lampitt, left, and Vladimir Antonov. Picture: Barry Zee
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By the time you are reading this, Pompey could be relegated.

Alternatively, what would surely be the inevitable may have been delayed.

Such are the pitfalls of penning this article before Saturday’s visit to Doncaster.

Alas, none of us are armed with impregnable hindsight.

Let’s face it, though, barring some incredible miracle, the Blues will be in League One next season.

That is if the club, in its current state, remains in existence, of course.

Still, a car crash of a season is almost over – and none too soon in the majority of supporters’ eyes.

Without question, it has been the worst Pompey campaign for at least a generation.

Not since 1983 have Portsmouth Football Club played in the third division of English football – now they seem destined to be back there.

A fresh start in footballing terms, the more important issue, though, is whether the club’s finances will be given a clean slate.

Trevor Birch has spoken of how League One can offer the Blues the opportunity to be ‘cleansed’, benefits enjoyed by clubs such as Norwich and Southampton in recent times.

In truth, however, not even administration, CVA or now relegation can eradicate Pompey’s extensive debts.

According to the PKF Joint Administrators’ Proposals released earlier in the week, Pompey stand at a staggering £59m in debt.

Of that figure, £40.506m is owed to unsecured creditors, racked up since the last administration.

So much for the new era introduced by David Lampitt and then eventually joined by Convers Sports Initiatives.

Inside two years, those given the responsibility of running the club have overseen million pounds worth of debts built up.

It is all there in black and white and continues to hamper the Blues’ chances of rebuilding its bankrupted model once again.

Glancing at the PKF report and there is a familiar look about it, certainly many of those creditors contained within ring more than the odd bell.

Bransbury Park Butchers, Cartridge World, Priory School, St John Ambulance, the Marriott Hotel, local businesses left out of pocket when Pompey went into administration in February 2010.

Sadly all are named once more during this latest administration.

What’s more, they have still to be paid for last time, due to the collapse of the CVA and Portpin’s failure to keep their promise of paying those below £2,500 responsible.

Once stung, twice shy. No doubt should Pompey emerge from this latest threat to their existence, such businesses will again be asked to supply the club.

Who could blame them if they declined – and none too politely either.

Which is why the slate can never been wiped clean, irrespective of what division the Blues find themselves in.

Years of mistreating the community, in terms of fan support and businesses. Inevitably it will take years to earn back that trust.

Of course, it is not just local creditors who have cropped up again – there are also three former Pompey owners listed in the Joint Administrators’ Proposals.

Balram Chainrai, Levi Kushnir and their company Portpin are now owed £18.6m – a rise of around £1.6m from the debt recorded in the previous administration.

The obvious question remains why there has been such a sizeable increase in their debt.

The answer most likely lies in the form of interest, missed payments by CSI and money spent during their eight months back in charge of the club.

It is important to remember that should Chainrai return to Fratton Park to protect his investment as a ‘last resort’ it will come at a cost.

That cost is usually a high interest rate.

Not forgetting, of course, they still have that crucial charge over the ground itself.

Elsewhere, Sacha Gaydamak is a secured creditor for £2.2m, in recognition of a Barclays Bank overdraft facility he supplied the club with.

This is already set to come out of the £14m parachute payments scheduled over the next two years.

Gaydamak is also entitled to a chunk of the original CVA – which totalled £16.5m – and now will be swallowed up by a potential new one.

The outcome of such a fresh CVA will be decided by a creditors’ meeting on April 26 at 11am at the Victory Lounge.

Then there is CSI, unsecured creditors owed £10.525m from their time overseeing the club.

Vladimir Antonov and Roman Dubov have both claimed in recent separate interviews they would be willing to write that off.

Not so it seems, the figure is part of the unsecured creditors’ tally.

Those other unsecured creditor debts come in at unpaid salaries (£1.604m), transfer and agent fees (£2.179m) and trade creditors (£2.239m).

Then there are the players themselves, of which 13 are contracted to the club beyond this summer.

When PKF arrived, the playing staff had a net book value of £7.1m. Quite how remains anyone’s guess, still that is where it is.

The report details the ‘unsustainable player salaries’ and how the ‘player cost base is inappropriate for a club of this size’.

Erik Huseklepp, Liam Lawrence, Stephen Henderson and Hayden Mullins were subsequently loaned out, generating £690,000 in loan fees and a reduction in payroll costs of £205,000 per month.

Of the quartet, only Henderson is lined-up for a permanent deal, with West Ham set to complete a move in the summer.

The remaining trio will return to Fratton Park should their temporary clubs decide against taking up an option, ensuring the wage bill will continue to hold back Pompey.

Before then, a new owner is required, with Birch insisting there are two interested parties in addition to the Trust.

Encouraging, yet still there has been no firm bid, with the administrator insisting a solution is needed before June 2 – the date of the Football League AGM.

Birch believes a bid of £5-10m would be enough to secure the club. Yet still he waits.

In the meantime, the local community has been treated shamefully once again.

Cowplain Community School, Dominos, Eden Florists, Faith & Football, Flybe, Havant & Waterlooville FC, PMN Wedding Fayres Ltd, The Poppy Appeal and Roko all suffering.

They have paid the price for a procession of Pompey mismanagement.

It may well be a fresh league next season but there is no escaping the mistakes of the past which continue to haunt the future.